A bill introduced recently in the Ohio House would reduce unemployment benefits in Ohio — and the ability of workers to qualify for them — so that Ohio’s unemployment program would become among the most restrictive in the United States.
House Bill 394 would slash the maximum number of weeks of unemployment compensation benefits from 26 to between 12 and 20. Right now, based on our unemployment rate, it would allow a maximum of just 12 weeks of benefits — last in the country, tied only with North Carolina.
The legislation would also provide substantial tax cuts to employers, according to data provided by the bill sponsor, Rep. Barbara Sears. Policy Matters Ohio issued an initial statement on the bill last week and is providing this additional analysis of how the bill would make Ohio an outlier among states.
In addition to cutting benefits, the bill would also:
- Require that laid-off workers must earn wages in at least three of the four calendar quarters in the prior year to have a valid unemployment claim. Right now, Ohio requires 20 weeks to qualify for some benefits. Requiring wages in three quarters would hurt workers who are not employed throughout the year through no fault of their own. No other state imposes such a stringent requirement.
- Impose an additional waiting week, so that each time someone is laid off during a year, they would not receive benefits for a week when benefits would otherwise begin immediately. This would apply each time someone went back to work and was laid off, as long as they earned as much as their weekly benefit. Only North Carolina requires unemployed workers to serve more than one waiting week in a year.
- Restore the reduction (or offset) of weekly unemployment benefits when an otherwise eligible candidate is receiving Social Security retirement benefits. Ohio repealed its offset in 2007 with unanimous votes in both houses of the legislature. Ohio would be in the only state in the nation that deducts one dollar of unemployment benefits for each dollar of Social Security retirement received.
- Disqualify applicants for unemployment benefits for violating the terms of their employee handbook. The bill would make violation of minor handbook provisions a “just cause” for discharge resulting in disqualification from benefits regardless of the circumstances of the violation and without a showing of fault. Ohio would be the only state in the country with such a provision.
- Keep anyone from getting unemployment benefits who receives Social Security disability insurance payments for the same week. States already make an individualized inquiry into whether an applicant is available and able to work — a requirement to receive unemployment compensation — despite claiming or receiving disability benefits. Given that individuals on disability are encouraged to work, those who are able to do so and then become involuntarily unemployed should not be automatically barred from unemployment compensation. Minnesota is the only state we have found that explicitly says that Social Security disability payments can make you ineligible for unemployment compensation.
These aren’t the only extreme provisions in the bill that would make Ohio an exception among states, but they represent some of the key ones. Hearings in the House Insurance Committee are proceeding on the bill.
-- Zach Schiller
Zach is Policy Matters research director.