COLUMBUS, Ohio – Trade associations representing Ohio’s restaurants and other small businesses have lauded a July 29 decision in Franklin County Common Pleas Court upholding Governor Mike DeWine’s authority to not spend federal funding that gave those unemployed – as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – a $300 weekly bonus to their state unemployment benefits.
But the attorney representing the Cleveland area plaintiffs in the case said a hearing on an appeal of Judge Michael Holbrook’s decision to end the payments effective June 26 could get heard in the Franklin County Court of Appeals as early as this week.
Businesses have pointed to the extra unemployment payments as a reason many of those unemployed have remained out of the workforce at a time many employers cannot find enough applicants.
“The challenge for small business owners is clearly finding people to work,” says Roger Geiger, executive director for the 21,000-member Ohio chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Finding quality workers is probably the single biggest crisis facing small businesses.”
A recent NFIB Ohio survey of members showed one in two “are desperately looking for employees coming off the pandemic and the economy recovers,” Geiger tells The Ohio Star.
Nearly half of survey respondents have already raised wages to attract employees and many are prepared to raise wages again. Geiger noted retailers, restaurant owners, and other small businesses do not have the wherewithal of ability to automate functions.
He said he understands some may have childcare or other issues preventing them from working.
“But there’s no reason for there to be a disincentive for people to go back to work,” he said.
The national NFIB joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week in filing an amicus brief with the 10th District Court of Appeals supporting Holbrook’s decision not to grant a preliminary injunction in the case.
The Ohio Restaurant Association also has said its members overwhelmingly believe the staffing shortage is tied to the bonus payments, according to a news advisory posted today.
In a recent survey, 77 percent of respondents answered that the stoppage of the additional $300 per week would solve hiring issues.
Quick appeal planned
Marc Dann, the Cleveland attorney representing plaintiffs, said the court erred in its decision, stating that the Ohio General Assembly, not the governor alone, must agree to end the program the legislature approved.
“The judge read the law wrong and we’ve asked the appeals court to hear our appeal,” Dann told The Star. “The governor doesn’t have the authority to end the benefits. ”
He has asked for an expedited appeal in support of the request as the litigation had all of the pertinent facts and law presented.
Meantime, the DeWine administration welcomed the decision to uphold the governor’s executive order to end the federal pandemic bonus, a policy many other GOP governors have since put into effect.
“We have heard over and over again from employers who can’t find workers to fill open positions, and this policy helps both employers and workers,” the administration said in a June 29 press release. “As a result of the tough decisions we have made, Ohio’s recovery is strong, unemployment claims are declining, and Ohio’s unemployment rate is below the national average.”
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Brian Ball is a reporter for The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Send tips to [email protected]iostar.com.