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Family fears for loss of federal pandemic assistance

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Posted at 6:33 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 18:33:10-04

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio — In a push to get people back to work, Ohio governor Mike Dewine is opting the state out of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program at the end of June.

The program allows those collecting jobless benefits to receive an extra $300 weekly.

Sarah Russell of Liberty Township said the decision to stop the program shouldn't be so cut and dry.

"I am very frustrated for the whole situation,” Russell said.

Russell said the end of program could mean life or death for her six-year-old daughter, Emmalee, who has a rare gene mutation and kidney disease.

"They've put me in a position where I have to choose between protecting my daughter's life or being able to provide shelter and food for my children,” Russell said. "She is more susceptible to the virus."

According to a doctor's note from Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Emmalee can't go to daycare right now. Russell must be her caregiver. Meaning she hasn't been able to return to work cleaning homes over the last year. Instead, she relies on the extra pandemic assistance so she can take care of her children until Emmalee can be vaccinated.

"They should not be making that decision when everyone cannot be vaccinated,” Russell said.

Dewine said the assistance was always intended to be temporary. On Thursday, the Governor announced Ohio will opt out of the federal program starting June 26. Three months earlier than when the program actually ends.

"That extra $300 a week is in some cases certainly discouraging people from going back at this point in time," DeWine said Thursday.

Tim Proud of Liberty Township also applied for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Benefits.

He hasn't been able to work his job at Starbucks during the pandemic because of an underlying health condition. After nearly a year of waiting, he finally received his pay this week.

"The extra 300 came in handy, it helped as well,” Proud said. "Thank god I haven't been in a situation where I had to pay rent, or put food on the table. I feel for all those people who have a situation."

Proud said he is still supportive of the state's decision.

"I think it's a good thing because people aren't going back to work because they're making more money on unemployment. And we need to get the economy going,” Proud said.

Russell said it’s not about work ethic.

"This isn't just people being lazy. The impacts are still happening,” Russell said.

Currently, it is unclear when children younger than 12 will be cleared for vaccination.