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Did COVID-19 cause you to lose your job? You may qualify for unemployment

by Derek Kreider

If you have been affected by the shutdown of bars and restaurants during the COVID-19 outbreak, you can apply for unemployment here: ODJFS Online.

If you are unsure about whether or not you qualify for unemployment insurance, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services(ODJFS) has an FAQ section regarding the new rules here: Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance Benefits

For anyone who was affected by a mass lay-off, the ODJFS has provided a common WARN  number to use that will speed the processing of unemployment benefits: 2000180.

Greater Akron’s economic development ecosystem partners launched a regional guide to help employers and employees during the COVID-19 outbreak: Greater Akron Resource Guide.

The United States Bartenders Guild is providing COVID-19 educational resources as well as relief grants through their Bartender Emergency Assistance Fund: USBG COVID-19 Resources.

As of April 10, Summit County ODJFS has expanded its unemployment call center hours to meet the increased need for service. If you need to submit a claim or reset your PIN for an existing claim you may call 1-877-644-6562 toll-free during the following hours:

Monday-Friday: 7 am-7 pm.
Saturday: 9 am-5 pm
Sunday: 9 am-1 pm

Those needing other assistance with their claims may call the same number during normal weekday business hours. 

In brief, people who qualify are:

  • Anyone who has been asked by a medical professional, their employer, or a local health authority to be isolated or quarantined (even if they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19) and is not able to work remotely
  • Anyone who is not working as a result of closures due to COVID-19

Ohio is waiving the waiting period to qualify for unemployment insurance, as well as the requirement that people receiving unemployment benefits seek jobs. Normally applicants have to serve a one-week waiting period after filing a new application for benefits and prove that they have been actively looking for a job.

Ohio also requires that applicants earn an average weekly wage of at least $269 before taxes or other deductions. As of publication, the ODJFS has yet to say whether or not they will be waiving the minimum weekly wage requirement. (If your wages include tips, your unemployment benefits will only include your tipped wage if your employer reported tips as part of your wages to the IRS.)

As an added relief, the measure also applies to people who aren’t offered paid sick leave from their jobs, or anyone who has been placed under quarantine by a health professional or their employer.

If your place of employment is still open and you choose not to go to work without having been directed to stay home by a medical professional or your employer, the extension of unemployment benefits does not apply.. According to the ODJFS website, unemployment insurance is only available to people finding themselves unemployed due to “no fault of their own.” 

The ODJFS points out that the circumstances of each case will determine eligibility. For example, if an employer allows workers to telecommute, then there’s no need for unemployment benefits. However, if the employer tells their employee to stay home but doesn’t offer the option to telecommute, the employee “might be eligible for benefits if they met the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.”

In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, Governor Mike DeWine announced on March 15 that all bars and restaurants must shut down operations, with the exception of carry-out and delivery services.

Aware of the economic impact this move will have on people in the service industry, DeWine also signed an executive order Sunday to expand unemployment to those who lose their jobs as a result of the closings.

Photo: Shane Wynn