COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Cecilia Onuorah is one of more than 350,000 Ohioans who continue to file a weekly claim for unemployment benefits.
“I lost everything,” Onuorah said. “I lost everything in a matter of months and I worked hard for what I did have.”
Onuorah, a single mother of three young children, owned a successful cleaning business until everyone started working from home because of the pandemic.
“That’s when I lost clients and then after that, when the government or when the state shut down daycare, that’s when it really affected me,” she said.
With her business crashing and no where to take her children, Onuorah went into survival mode.
“I spent a lot of my savings trying to keep us afloat,” Onuorah said.
Pandemic unemployment benefits helped. But the $600 federal unemployment supplement program expired at the end of July and Onuorah was forced to give up her apartment and start living in and out of hotel rooms.
“I was afraid of something happening to my children,” Onuorah said. “We’ve stayed overnight in cars. I ran out of money multiple times. So, we’ve had really rough nights.”
Now, her weekly unemployment benefit is about $200 a week. She says that’s not enough to take care of her three children.
Governor Mike DeWine said yesterday the state has applied for FEMA funds to provide a $300 a week unemployment supplement but that’s still at least several weeks away.
“I look forward to it because it would be helpful at this time,” Onuorah said. “But I would like everything to reopen so I can go back to work. This is not how I would like to provide for my family.”
Rep. David Leland of Columbus says his office has heard from about 500 people who are struggling like Cecilia Onuorah.
“We’ve got people getting evicted because they don’t have any money and they don’t have a job,” Leland says. “We’ve got food banks that used to provide for 20 people a week, they’re now doing 3,000 a week and in five days. Utilities are going to be shutting off service. People need help.”
Leland says Congress should reinstate the $600 a week supplement and believes the state should dip into it’s $2.7 billion rainy day fund to help Ohioans like Onuorah.
“They didn’t do anything wrong,” Leland said. “They’re just are the victims of this global health crisis and while we’re willing to bail out companies and give billions of dollars to companies, we should be willing to give $600 a week to people who did nothing wrong but need the money to survive, need the money to keep from being evicted, need the money to keep their utilities on.”