Coronavirus: Unemployed urged to apply for jobless benefits by phone, online

Marvene Mitchell-Cook, Montgomery County’s workforce director, said the emergency unemployment benefits are available to those struggling. Joining her at a Thursday news conference is Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Marvene Mitchell-Cook, Montgomery County’s workforce director, said the emergency unemployment benefits are available to those struggling. Joining her at a Thursday news conference is Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

More than half the state’s first-time jobless claims this year poured in at a blistering pace during the first four days this week. And numbers are expected to surge higher as the economy is further dampened by the coronavirus crisis.

“This pandemic is having a massive impact on our county’s workers and business owners,” said Marvene Mitchell-Cook, Montgomery County’s workforce director. “We are in unprecedented times.”

By Thursday, more than 111,000 Ohioans had filed for jobless benefits this week. By the third Wednesday in March, initial jobless claims reached near half the previous five-year annual average, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

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Montgomery County leaders on Thursday urged idle workers to seek emergency unemployment benefits and other public assistance — but do it only online or by phone.

Nearly all face-to-face contact is halted at county offices, including those that deal with benefits. The county also shut down the ability for people seeking employment to walk in and use computers at the Job Center, a change from Wednesday when 200 job seekers showed up, said Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert. Computers can still be used by first making an appointment.

The decision to close down much county’s in-person business is related to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s urging of employers to check whether workers are running a fever, Colbert said.

“We had to abide by the thermometer scan that came out … and that forced us to change our operation,” he said.

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By Thursday afternoon, 119 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Cases have been confirmed in 24 counties, including eight in Butler and one each in Clark, Darke, Miami and Montgomery counties.

Tens of thousands of jobless claims came in after Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a vast array of businesses to close or scale back operations to slow the outbreak, including bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, recreation centers, bowling alleys and water parks. On Wednesday, DeWine extended the order to include barber shops, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors as well as the state’s 180 Bureau of Motor Vehicle registrar offices and 52 driver exam locations.

The governor, though, expanded unemployment eligibility to include employees who can’t work because their employer has closed, as well as employees who are in mandatory quarantine for suspected infection. Workers who do not have access to paid leave at their job will be able to access unemployment benefits.

Mitchell-Cook said DeWine’s expanded eligibility order made two major changes: it waived the standard one week waiting period to receive benefits and people receiving benefits are no longer required to seek work.

“Anyone who has lost work because of coronavirus should apply,” she said.

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Other rules, however, have caught some offguard. Workers seeking benefits must still have worked at least 20 weeks in covered employment and earned at least $269 in the base period, constituting four out of the last five completed calendar quarters.

Hard-hit industries include retail and leisure hospitality, which employ more than 76,000 people in the Dayton metro area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

MORE: Ohio contractors group urges governor to keep construction sites open

Employment remains available as supermarkets and companies that rely on deliveries are desperately seeking workers, Mitchell-Cook said.

Job seekers can still email or call to make in-person appointments or leave paperwork in a drop box in the lobby at the Job Center, 1111 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in Dayton. The Workforce Development office will still be taking calls at 937-225-5627 from people looking for work.

How to apply for jobless benefits

People who have lost work because of the COVID-19 emergency can contact the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to apply for unemployment benefits. Affected workers can apply online at http://unemployment.ohio.gov or by phone at 1-877-644-6562 (TTY available at 1-614-387-8408). Using the mass layoff number 2000180 when filing will identify the application as related to COVID-19.

Certain state requirements to file for unemployment remain:

• Ohioans must be totally or partially unemployed.

• In 2020, applicant must have worked at least 20 weeks in covered employment and earned at least $269 in the base period (four out of the last five completed calendar quarters).

• Residents must be unemployed through no fault of their own.

• People who had a prior unemployment claim that is expired must have worked in covered employment since the beginning of the prior claim year to reestablish as a worker.

Help applying in Montgomery County

The Talent Services division at 1111 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in Dayton is allowing people to use public computers to apply for unemployment benefits, but is no longer allowing walk-in visitors. All visitors must have an appointment. To keep social distancing and to allow for disinfecting of the area, there will be a maximum of 35 appointments daily.

To make an appointment, call 937- 225-5627, email TheJobBank@mcohio.org, or use the contact form at www.thejobcenter.org/contact-us.html.

How to apply for other assistance

Ohioans can visit ssp.benefits.ohio.gov to apply for food, cash assistance and publicly-funded child care.

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