Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has issued an executive order that extends unemployment benefits to Ohioans unable to work due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). In addition, the one week waiting period before receiving benefits is waived, and payments will be expedited. The moves come as Ohio, the nation, and the world grapple with an outbreak of the respiratory illness, which the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared a pandemic.
During this uncertain time, Graham & Graham remains committed to providing every individual and family of Southeast Ohio with the highest-quality, client-centered legal services. While we’re taking precautions to reduce the spread of the virus, we stand ready to assist with new questions, claims, and cases related to personal injury, Social Security disability, Workers’ Compensation, motor vehicle accidents, family and business matters, and more.
Please note that the firm does not handle unemployment claims. However, we want to make sure that anyone whose job is affected by COVID-19 has access to the latest and most accurate information.
Temporary Changes to Unemployment Benefits
Governor DeWine said on March 15 that he would take executive action to assist Ohio workers in quarantine over coronavirus, as well as employees of businesses that are temporarily closed because of the virus.
Those changes to unemployment benefits are now in place. According to the Ohio Office of Unemployment Insurance Operations, the following workers will have access to benefits:
- Eligible individuals who are requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19 (even if they aren’t actually diagnosed with the disease).
- Eligible employees who have been laid off due to the loss of production caused by coronavirus.
The other major change to unemployment compensation policy is that the usual one-week delay for payments will be waived. Eligible workers will now receive benefits immediately.
Note that the new policy does not apply to:
- Employees without coronavirus symptoms who self-quarantine.
- Employees offered the option to work remotely (i.e., work from home).
Workers Must Meet Regular Unemployment Eligibility Requirements
Workers who find themselves jobless as a result of coronavirus must still meet eligibility criteria for unemployment compensation. That means:
- Your employer must pay Ohio unemployment insurance.
- You must have an average weekly wage of at least $269 (before taxes or other deductions) for 20 weeks during the base period before you became employed. As the State of Ohio explains, the average weekly wage is determined by dividing your total wages earned during the base period (from any employer who pays unemployment contributions) by the total number of weeks worked during the same base period for the same employer(s).
- A base period is a full year divided into four quarters of three months each. A regular base period is the first four of the past five completed calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim.
- If you don’t qualify for benefits using the regular base period, you might qualify under an alternate base period. The alternate base period is the last four completed calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim.
Based on these requirements, many of the workers impacted by Governor DeWine’s order to close bars and dine-in restaurants will not be eligible for benefits, says Policy Matters Ohio Research Director Zach Schiller. He says that, “An employee who had been paid the minimum wage and working 30 hours a week won’t qualify for benefits because they didn’t average the requisite $269 a week. Nor would an employee who was paid $10 an hour working 25 hours a week.”
Schiller is calling on the Ohio General Assembly to pass emergency legislation that reduces these minimum requirements.
How to File for Unemployment Benefits and Additional Resources
Ohio has two ways to file for unemployment benefits:
- Online at http://unemployment.ohio.gov
- Toll-free: 1-877-644-6562, Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM
Learn more, including what information you’ll need to apply, at the Claim Information Page. Answers to eligibility questions and other frequently-asked unemployment questions can be found in the Worker’s Guide to Unemployment Insurance.
Could Workers’ Compensation Cover a Coronavirus Claim?
Ohio has a list of occupational diseases that are eligible for compensation benefits and health care. Currently, Ohio workers’ compensation does not cover coronavirus-related occupational disease. But there’s a possibility that will change in the future.
Washington State, which has suffered the most cases of coronavirus in the nation, has announced steps to ensure workers’ compensation protections for those on the front line of the outbreak, including health care workers and first responders. Some have speculated that others states could follow Washington’s example.
Should Ohio make changes to its workers’ compensation policies to deal with coronavirus, or make further changes to unemployment compensation policies, Graham & Graham will keep you informed.
*Disclaimer: The content presented here is made available for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice. By using this blog site, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the blog/website publisher, Graham & Graham LPA. The information above should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.