Ohio readying to make new federal payments available

State could make new $300 assistance payments by ’mid- to late September’

First-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped slightly from last week, but remain above one million nationally, demonstrating that layoffs are continuing in the COVID-19 recession.

In the week ending August 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 1,006,000, a decrease of 98,000 from the previous week’s revised level, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

But new help should be on the way for those suffering long-term unemployment.

FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration) announced this week that it has approved a $717 million grant to let Ohio provide $300 per week — on top of the state’s regular unemployment payment — to those unemployed due to the global pandemic.

Kimberly Hall, executive director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said the state is working to implement the necessary system to make the new payments — which she hopes will be available “by mid to late September.”

It will take time to implement the program, which has different reporting and eligibility requirements from the previous pandemic assistance payments, Hall said. And the state system to tap into the funds needs to be built out and tested, she said.

“This is a new program. We wish it were as easy as switching the allocation from $600 to $300,” Hall said.

She said “most” Ohioans who were eligible for the previous assistance payments will be eligible for these payments, which will be retroactive back to the week of Aug. 1.

Earlier this month, President Trump made available up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In Ohio, residents filed 18,988 new or initial claims for jobless benefits last week. That’s 255,227 fewer than, or less than 7%, of the peak back in April.

In Montgomery County, 901 residents filed for the first time for jobless benefits in the week ending Aug. 22, with 16,773 claims ongoing from previous weeks.

In Clark County, 174 residents made initial claims, with 3,250 claims continuing.

Butler County saw 174 new claims, on top of 3,250 continuing claims. In Warren County, those numbers were 206 and 4,984 respectively.

“Continuing claims for unemployment are gradually falling,” said PNC Financial Chief Economist Gus Faucher. “This indicates that some workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic are being rehired or taking new jobs, but that many others remain jobless. Unemployment in the U.S. economy is slowly declining."

So far, Faucher added, there is no indication yet that the expiration of an extra $600 per week in federal pandemic benefits at the end of July has led to a big drop in unemployment.

Ohioans filed 344,409 continued or ongoing jobless claims last week, which was 431,893 fewer than – or less than half (44.3%) of – the peak this year.

The total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 23 weeks (over 1.6 million) was more than the combined total of those filed during the last four years.

Also Thursday, the federal government estimated that the U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of 31.7% during the April-June quarter, the steepest quarterly drop on record.

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