Ohio Unlikely to get $176M for Jobless Benefits
Posted August 21, 2011 in Press Releases
As Ohio faced Monday's deadline to expand unemployment benefits and receive $176 million in federal stimulus money, state officials had not applied for the money and the General Assembly had not scheduled any sessions to take any action.
The federal government set aside $7 billion for unemployment compensation for states that broaden their unemployment programs. The provision is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"The idea was to reward states who update laws to increase access to benefits," said Wayne Vroman, an unemployment compensation expert under contract with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
But Gov. John Kasich says it makes no sense for the state to make long-term changes to a fiscally-damaged system for a one-time payment, spokesman Rob Nichols said. And the jobs department, which administers the state's unemployment compensation system, is not seeking any changes, department spokesman Ben Johnson said.
"We don't feel it's wise to expand benefits at a time when the trust fund is already $2.6 billion in debt," Johnson said.
Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Canfield, introduced a bill that would allow Ohio to receive the money by providing benefits to workers who leave their jobs for family reasons and by extending benefits to people in approved job training. But his bill never came to a vote.
Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, who determines which bills are called in the Senate, was concerned that costs of the long-term changes could outweigh the benefits of one-time funding, spokesman John McClelland said.
Ohio's unemployment compensation program provides short-term income to unemployed workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The weekly benefit is typically half the worker's previous wages up to a set maximum, based on the number of eligible dependents. Benefits may be paid for up to 26 weeks