CINCINNATI — In an average year, the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati helps about 50 people get their unemployment benefits. In 2020 however, the organization helped about 400 clients.
WCPO 9 anchor Julie O'Neill spoke with the groups lead attorney on public benefits issues, Regina Campbell, about how they are helping people get their benefits.
JO: What can you and are you doing for people who are struggling to get their benefits?
RC: What we are trying to do is connect people with ODJFS (Ohio Department of Job and Family Services).
If they have documents that they need to uploaded, we’re helping them upload those documents. We’re trying to do fact finding to figure out if a case says that it’s pending, why has it been pending for months? What does ODJFS need? Does somebody just need to take a look at this case?
JO: This is what everybody wants. My inbox is flooded with people that just need to get that person who can actually make the difference. How many people have you been able to help, and can you help anybody, or is it just people who are, by virtue of what your office does, who are closer to the poverty line?
RC: We’ve been able to help a good number of people get paid. There are other people who are still waiting for decisions and we’re doing our best to try to prompt ODJFS to move more quickly.
We’re not always successful. Sometimes even when people contact us, they really are waiting and we’re trying to push as much as we can.
I realize that people out of work right now have no income so we’re trying our best to help as many people as possible, even if they’re not traditionally low income, but I would say that that is our main mission, is to help people who are at 200 percent of poverty or lower.
JO: There are people who can’t pay their rent. There are people who are losing their cars.
RC: There is a lot of Cares Act money out there that we would encourage everyone to try and get that, so that they are not evicted, especially if their unemployment is being held up.
There is a lot of money in our community to help people. Freestore Foodbank has some. Community Action Agency is doing an amazing job of getting Cares Act funding into the community. Talbert House is doing the same.
Julie, there are millions and millions, I am not exaggerating, millions and millions of dollars have come into our community in the last multiple months to try and help people. They can pay rent forward, they can pay retro-rent. This is money that needs to get out into our community.
Call 211. United Way has amazing people staffing that call line. They can give you information about what agencies in your community can help you get this money. We need people to access this money because it’s there and that’s what it’s there for.
If you would like to get in touch with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, call them at 513-241-9400. You can also call the United Way at 211 to inquire about Cares Act funding.