by Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio unemployment claimants would receive $300 in federal weekly unemployment assistance under an option provided by the White House that doesn’t require extra state spending, the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine said.
The plan agreed to late Sunday by DeWine means less money for the unemployed under another option, that would provide $400 a week, with $100 coming from the state.
Both options involve less than the $600 a week in federal pandemic aid that recipients were receiving until their expiration on Aug 1, with Congress unable to agree on an extension.
Ohio recipients will still receive regular state unemployment benefits under the plan. The new federal benefit – if it goes forward – might not take effect until later this month while Ohio seeks guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor for implementing it, said DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney. He said software changes were required to the state’s unemployment compensation computer system.
The money helps further the state’s recovery from the pandemic “because this does go directly back into Ohio’s economy,” Tierney said.
Many states questioned whether they could afford the $100 given economies already cratering because of the pandemic and sharply reduced tax revenue. Unlike the federal government, Ohio must have a balanced budget and can’t run up debts.
DeWine had said on CNN Sunday morning that the state was exploring paying the extra $100. “We’re looking at it right now to see if we can do this,” the governor said.
Taking on the financial burden of the extra $100 would have required a longer review process and involved consulting with state lawmakers because new state spending was required, Tierney said Monday.
Despite DeWine’s announcement, whether President Donald Trump even has the constitutional authority to extend federal unemployment benefits by executive order remains unclear. Both Democrats and Republicans have questioned the move’s validity.
To date, Ohio’s human services agency has issued more than $4.9 billion in federal pandemic aid to more than 503,000 unemployed Ohioans.
Overall, the state has distributed more than $5.8 billion in unemployment compensation to more than 771,000 Ohioans in the past 20 weeks.
The $300 should be a temporary fix ahead of a long-term solution, said Sen. Kenny Yuko of Cleveland, the top-ranking Democrat in the Ohio Senate. “In order to protect families and the economy, we need a plan that gets workers the relief they need as soon as possible,” Yuko said.
Ohio has reported more than 101,000 probable and confirmed coronavirus cases, including 883 announced Monday, well below the 21-day average of 1,217. More than 3,600 Ohioans have died.
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Andrew Welsh-Huggins is a reporter with The Associated Press.
Photo “Governor Mike DeWine” by US Air Force.