Advocates Call For Unemployment Compensation System Reform

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — A collection of health and human services advocates are urging state leaders to immediately work on revamping the unemployment compensation system in order to avoid another backlog in the future.

The groups, which include the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and Policy Matters Ohio are calling on the Ohio Senate to pass a bill, HB614, that creates the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council.

They say the current, antiquated system caused long delays. Meaning thousands had to wait weeks or even months to get unemployment benefits.

Tatyana Atkinson, a cosmetologist from Cleveland, says these problems can reoccur if businesses have to close again.

“Tomorrow if someone from my salon said they had COVID-19, I would have to call everyone who’s come in, talk to everyone who’s about to come for the next two weeks. We’d shut down for the next two weeks,” says Atkinson.

Under the bill, the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council would be required to examine:

The technological infrastructure used to file claims and pay benefits and the experience had by individuals and employers participating in the process

Possible improvements that will maximize responsiveness for individuals and employers

Methods for sharing data across systems related to unemployment compensation to maximize efficiency

Methods for synergizing user experience across multiple programs administered or supervised by the director of job and family services.

The council would have 11 members, comprised of people representing employers, employees, the Ohio General Assembly, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. It would not examine the state unemployment compensation fund’s solvency issue.

The advocacy groups are proposing several changes, including the creation of a 24/7 call center and lower eligibility standards.