Ohio bill would expand access to unemployment benefits
Posted July 25, 2022 in Press Releases
Senate Bill 355 would remedy UC system’s bias against low-paid workers
A bill introduced last Thursday in the Ohio Senate would significantly reduce the amount an Ohioan must be paid in order to qualify for unemployment compensation (UC). The legislation would extend coverage to many low-paid Ohioans if they are laid off from work. Currently, many people paid low wages must work much longer each week than their higher-paid counterparts to qualify for UC.
“No matter what we look like or how much we’re paid, all Ohioans should know that if we fall on hard times, we will be able to make ends meet until we get back on our feet,” said Michael Shields, researcher at Policy Matters Ohio. “For nearly all of the last 20 years, a smaller share of unemployed people in Ohio have received unemployment benefits than in other states. That needs to change, and this bill will take a major step toward doing so.”
Ohio policymakers made it harder for working people to qualify for UC by setting the pay threshold or “earnings test” so high that this year a person must be paid an average of $298 a week over at least 20 weeks of work. That means someone paid the minimum wage can work 31 hours a week and never qualify for benefits. Only a handful of states require wages as high as Ohio does. Under Senate Bill 355, sponsored by Sen. Teresa Fedor of Toledo, an Ohioan would need to work 20 weeks and earn $1,500 in the year, including $1,000 in one quarter, to qualify.
“Our research has found that SB 355 would extend coverage to nearly 460,000 working Ohioans who are blocked from benefits if they are laid off now,” Shields said. “It would also extend coverage to more Black workers and women who are more likely to be excluded by today’s onerous earnings requirement. We hope the Senate will move quickly when it returns to approve the bill.”