COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A new bill in the Ohio Senate could help nearly half a million more Ohioans qualify for unemployment benefits.

Senate Bill 355 would lower monetary eligibility for compensation by more than $4,000.

“This bill is because we’re out of step with other states,” state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) said.

Right now, in Ohio, to qualify for unemployment benefits if you get laid off, you have to make nearly six thousand dollars, over twenty weeks. Fedor, who introduced the bill, tells me only three states have a higher threshold than Ohio.

“Right now, someone making $30 an hour would qualify for unemployment by working ten hours a week but a minimum wage worker working 31 hours a week would not,” Fedor said.

Under the proposed bill, the required twenty weeks of working to qualify for unemployment benefits stays the same. But you’d only have to make $1,500 over that period, compared to nearly $6,000.

“We’re balancing that scale and bringing a fairness to those who are working,” Fedor said.

The amount of money someone receives under unemployment is based on their earnings, so economics professor at The Ohio State University, Bruce Weinberg said the cost to implement this bill wouldn’t be too high.

“It’s a program that involves relatively smaller amounts of money for people who hadn’t been earning that much money to begin with,” Weinberg said.

He said businesses pay taxes for the unemployment program, something he does not anticipate going up and if it does — not by a large amount. He said the state has a trust that could support additional costs.

“I think if one was trying to evaluate this policy, it seems a little bit odd to focus on this increase of benefits as the straw that’s going to break the camel’s back,” Weinberg said.

Fedor said they will be having sponsor testimony for this bill before the end of this term as part of the effort to push the bill forward in a timely matter.