For this mother, business owner, 'it's just a wait and see' for unemployment

Posted at 5:00 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 07:10:37-04

BATAVIA, Ohio — The matriarch of any large family has all manner of worries swirling in her head at all times. On top of that, she is also head of the family business amid a pandemic.

This is the reality of Rhonda Griffin of Batavia, owner of Griffin Field Services, a small construction company that employs her kids and keeps food on the table for her grandkids.

“It hurts me to see my children and my grandchildren suffering like this in these times,” Griffin said, listing her COVID-19-related concerns for WCPO as her unemployment benefits remain stuck in the system at Ohio Job and Family Services.

The pandemic stopped all projects for her family company in March of 2020. Griffin received benefits for several months, but her claim got flagged for fraud in November and the checks stopped, Griffin said.

Griffin’s case is one of thousands in Ohio that got flagged as fraudulent activity was plaguing the Buckeye State and others nationwide. ODJFS required people provide proof of who they were, including copies of passports, driver’s licenses and utility bills.

“I’ve handwritten letters. I’ve sent everything at least three times and every time I speak with someone from that agency they say everything’s there. It’s just a wait and see,” Griffin said. “Our bills, our credit cards are through the roof. We’ve been threatened with eviction. We’ve scraped together the money for that. We have lost one company vehicle that we’ve had for a couple of years."

With vaccinations and Ohio opening up again, Griffin’s financial situation now is complicating her ability to get her family moving forward on construction projects again.

“We’re anxious to get back to work as soon as we can. All of us are. But now with the rising cost of building materials it’s scary,” Griffin said. “You require some amount of money to begin a job,” she said.

Griffin said the money she’s approved for in unemployment benefits would get her out of debt and help put her back in business, if only she could get it from the state.

“It’s not their fault," Griffin said. "I mean they’re there to try to help but I mean it’s just frustrating when you call and time after time after time they tell you ‘well everything’s there. You just have to wait for the right person to get ahold of it.'"

Ironically Griffin said her husband Earl, who instilled a hard work ethic in their children, was injured and the disability payments have been the couple’s only source of income as they try to keep their family afloat.

“We all help each other,” Griffin said. “My children work very hard for us. Their father has taught them everything they know and he expects the best and they know it. We’re just a good company. We are a family owned business and we don’t try to cheat anyone and we do very very good work."

Griffin said she hopes to jump start her company next month, but that hinges on the hope her benefits will arrive soon.
ODJFS has agreed to intervene on cases brought to them by WCPO as the agency’s efforts to get claims processed more quickly continues.