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Coronavirus Questions Answered: Unemployment Benefits

Every situation is different, so it's best to talk to a representative with ODJFS. [Ohio Department of Job and Family Services]
Every situation is different, so it's best to talk to a representative with ODJFS. [Ohio Department of Job and Family Services]

What are your questions about the coronavirus?

ideastream is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can  send us your questions with our online form, through our  social media  pages and  group or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll  keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

J asked via email if he can receive unemployment if he leaves work at his essential company voluntarily because he is at elevated risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services website, in most cases, if an individual chooses voluntarily to not work, he or she is not eligible for unemployment benefits.

But ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall said that doesn’t mean it’s not possible:

“I believe there’s a process where you can establish good cause, make a good cause argument, for that decision,” Hall said.

But she said that creates additional complexity in the examination of the claim.

It’s best if J talks with someone from ODJFS, although the department has acknowledged that it’s been hard for people to get through.

The website says the department is adding more customer service representatives and expanding hours to call.

If J isn’t eligible for unemployment benefits, he might be eligible for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Liz from Kent asked: “ How will the new federal additions to unemployment insurance apply in Ohio to workers who have had their hours reduced significantly, but have not been laid off?”

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, employees who are still working, but with reduced hours, may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

“It really depends on what that reduction takes you to, from an hourly standpoint,” ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall said.

Any earnings from employment may affect how much you receive from unemployment benefits.

This applies to more than full-time workers. According to the ODJFS, part-time temporary workers who have seen their hours reduced to zero may also be eligible for unemployment benefits, if they meet the eligibility requirements for hours worked and average weekly wage.

Kirk from Lorain asks: Will people already on unemployment benefits have their eligible weeks extended or their benefits adjusted?

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services spokesperson Bret Crow says a person already on unemployment will receive an additional $600 without needing to apply again.

The extra money is part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. Crow says the department hopes to begin issuing the $600 checks to Ohioans by the end of next week.

However, Crow says if a person wants to have their eligible weeks of unemployment extended, they will need to re-apply.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158