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Cranley addresses unemployment backup, 'stay home' order in press conference

Posted at 4:01 PM, Mar 23, 2020

CINCINNATI — During a Monday afternoon press conference, Mayor John Cranley addressed public concern over unemployment backup and how Cincinnati plans to enforce Governor DeWine's "stay at home" order.

Cranley said the governor is aware of "an unfortunate backup of unemployment calls" happening; DeWine's unemployment website crashed earlier Monday and people have reportedly complained to Cranley about the long wait times on the unemployment phone line. Cranley urged those who can do things online to do so, to free up phone wait times for those who cannot access the internet.

He also explained that, currently, 10-99 tax-filing employees, or independent contractor positions, cannot qualify for unemployment due to federal and state law.

"I can't emphasize enough how important it is for 10-99 workers to access unemployment benefits," said Cranley.

He said Governor DeWine has been lobbying Congress to amend this law for now, to help workers make it through the COVID-19 crisis. He urged citizens to call their Senate and Congress leaders to ask them to ensure that independent contractors and freelance workers be able to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Cranley also reiterated Cincinnati's policy for enforcing DeWine's "stay at home" order, explaining that compliance is key. Chief Eliot Isaac said the Cincinnati Police will be out enforcing the order, but do not intend to stop any drivers or people moving around on their daily business. Isaac said the Police Department will instead focus on ensuring that businesses are complying with the rules, but they will break up large groups of people if they see them gathered in public spaces.

Isaac also explained that the department will be putting together a list of non-emergency calls that first responders will no longer respond to, in order to keep those first responders safe and unexposed to COVID-19. Emergency calls will still see a response, he said, but the department is working on a way to respond by phone or online to some calls that do not require an immediate response.

"Safety is paramount here," said Isaac. "Keeping everyone safe and healthy."

Cranley also said there may be a slowdown in police response time as the city works to spread out the police force to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among officers if any of them do come down with the virus.

Cranley also stated that, in looking forward and bracing for a budget shortfall in the future, the city has invoked a hiring freeze and is in the process of reconsidering non-executed contract work. The city is also considering a furlough for part-time employees.

In addition, Cincinnati Health Comissioner Melba Moore announced Cincinnati has three additional positive cases of COVID-19, with 10 more tests pending.