Half of Ohioans on unemployment may not qualify for $300/week increase

Ohio officials are waiting on guidance on whether hundreds of thousands of Ohioans on expanded unemployment will qualify for the extra $300 a week offered by the White House.

President Donald Trump created the program by executive action, saying states will have to match the payments with $100. The White House later said states could count existing unemployment benefits towards that match so it didn’t cost additional money.

But programs such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — created for people who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment — are 100% federally funded. It’s unclear if Ohio can use federal funds to get the extra $300 in federal funds.

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“We do not yet have the formal guidance that would provide the answer to that question,” said DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney Wednesday.

Messages left for officials with the U.S. Department of Labor, which is providing guidance on the program, have not been returned.

More than 503,000 Ohioans have received assistance through the PUA program, with payouts totaling more than $4.9 billion. Traditional unemployment covered 404,434 Ohioans at the end of July, according to the most recent info from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Federal funds also pay for other unemployment programs such as the extension for people who used their full 26 weeks of unemployment, or a layoff aversion program.

Zach Schiller, research director for Policy Matters Ohio, said his reading of Trump’s executive memorandum and Department of Labor guidance suggests Ohio can’t use these federal funds for the match.

“It’s quite possible that close to half the people with continuing claims for unemployment insurance through the state will not be able to receive this $300 if we’re interpreting this correctly,” said Schiller.

“There are also whole other issues like is this even legal or how long will it take to get it going,” he said.

President Trump created the extra $300 weekly benefit by executive action after Congress failed to reach a compromise on extending extra payments amid the pandemic to replace the $600 payments that expired this month.

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Challenges have been raised about whether he has the power to enact such a program, and how much help it will be. The fund he directed to pay for it could run out in five or six weeks based on current unemployment usage levels.

DeWine has praised the president for taking action and said the money will help Ohio’s economy, but said he believes Congress should act soon with legislation extending aid to those left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic.

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