CINCINNATI — On Monday, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced a new, extended-benefits program for unemployment. The program will bring an additional 20 weeks of relief for individuals who qualify.
Those who are qualified can expect to hear from ODJFS about the extended aid. The new program targets Ohioans who used up 26 weeks of regular unemployment and 13 weeks of pandemic emergency benefits. It still leaves out one third of the one million people who initially applied for help.
This program also comes on the tail of the $600 per week federal CARES Act payments set to expire before the end of July.
"It remains to be seen whether Congress will act in time," said Kimberly Hall, director of ODJFS. "I do expect there will be another bill. It's just a matter of what that legislation will look like."
For business owners and employees still struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the extension in Ohio is crucial.
"That's huge for us," said Marie Grooms, co-owner of Hi-Tech Audio Video Solutions. "Without that money, no rent."
Grooms and her partner, Rick Lakoduk, have owned their company for eight years, successfully netting reliable contractors and near five-star reviews that made them one of Amazon's go-to home installers until March 17. Then, Amazon shut down home services because of the pandemic. Grooms and Lakoduk have been relying on unemployment and federal pandemic assistance since.
Until Ohio's announcement of the extension on Monday, their worries piled up as much as their bills.
"Spent a lot of time researching, trying to figure out how are we going to move forward?" said Grooms. "How are we going to get help? Because obviously 90 percent or more of our income is gone."
One of their company's contractors, Keith Bleything, is a 28-year-old father of two and the drop in work has affected his family, while he noted Congress going home for a two-week recess.
"If you guys can go on vacation while people are suffering to pay their bills, then you truly don't care as much about your jobs as you say you do," said Bleything.
The news of the extension was important for Bleything, but he said he's still eager to get back to work.
Without help, or a surge in business through their new website, Grooms and Lakoduk said they wonder if their business will be able to have a future.
"I don't know if we can keep it and still live here," said Grooms. "We have to think of other options. I don't know. We are at a loss at this point."