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Ohio unemployed ask: Where are our extended benefits?

Job and Family Services defends itself against hundreds of complaints
WCPo unemployment stress.jpg
Posted at 7:04 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 21:33:36-05

CINCINNATI — The new year's stimulus package is supposed to extend unemployment benefits until April.

But three weeks into January, many Ohioans are asking, "Where's our money?"

Ashley Mason is trying to be a good mom to her two young children in Norwood.

But the unemployed restaurant server is growing desperate, because her benefits ran out at Christmas.

"Right now, I literally have maybe $50 to my name," she said.

New stimulus is supposed to restart benefits

When Congress and President Trump approved the second stimulus Dec. 27, it was supposed to restart her benefits.

Three weeks later, nothing.

"I am beyond frustrated," she said. "And my worry is that if I don't see this money soon, how am I going to pay February's rent?"

Ameer Smith worked at Parker's Blue Ash Tavern until it closed for good during the pandemic.

He can't get a straight answer on his benefits.

"Some people tell you to continue filing your claims and you will be paid on the 19th. Well, that's past. Some people say hold on, and don't file claims until this is sorted out."

Even though the money is coming from the federal government, it has to be distributed in Ohio by Job and Family services, and the department is scrambling to get the money to people in the coming days.

Ohio JFS director Kimberly Hall Henderson said the feds want all applicants checked out again, which can take weeks.

"The new federal legislation did not authorize simple straightforward extensions, which would have been the easiest to implement," she said at a Wednesday news conference in Columbus.

"It has extended and amended existing programs with many complexities that are taking all states time to implement."

She hopes to restart most benefits by the beginning of February.

But Facebook and Reddit groups are filling with hundreds of people who need money now.

"400 people feeling like me, who all want answers because the answers they are giving are inadequate," Ameer Smith told us.

Kentucky and Indiana are seeing some delays, but it is nowhere like Ohio's delays. Many of their unemployed workers are already seeing their benefits now.

JFS tells us benefits should start flowing in the next week or two, and be retroactive to Jan. 1, but that is little consolation to people who need the money right now to pay their February rent.

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