COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For a second straight week, jobless claims in Ohio jumped by more 200,000.
According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, 226,007 people filed for unemployment in the state for the week of April 4.
The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last three weeks stands at 696,519. To put that in perspective, 364,603 initial jobless claims were filed during the entire year in 2019.
Meanwhile, the state is still trying to identify a vendor to build a new online system capable of handling claims from independent contractors, sole proprietors and gig workers. Those workers became eligible for unemployment benefits under the federal relief bill Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall says the earliest the new system will be up and running is sometime in May.
“It’s frustrating I know and really challenging for individuals to be in this kind of limbo state right now while we are understanding the requirements and partnering with a vendor to try to build the system,” Hall said.
Debra Cochran opened the Pyrple Tyrtle shop in Nelsonville last November. She is the shop’s only worker and hopes to be eligible for the expanded unemployment benefits.
“At this point, my biggest concern is paying my rent and utilities to maintain my retail space to be sure that when this is lifted, I still have a shop to reopen,” Cochran said. “Not knowing how long the circumstance is going to be extended, those monies are critical to help carry any retail space during this period of time when you have no walk-in traffic at all.”
During these last three weeks, ODJFS has distributed more than $124 million in unemployment compensation payments to more than 195,000 claimants.
ODJFS urges individuals to file their claims online, if possible, at unemployment.ohio.gov .
All told in the past three weeks, 16.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment aid . The surge of jobless claims has overwhelmed state unemployment offices around the country. And still more job cuts are expected.