Losing a job is devastating. Unemployment compensation is a critical safety net that helps families pay their mortgages, put food on the table and maintain some semblance of normalcy while a loved one looks for a job.
Unemployment compensation is even more important in times of national hardship. Unemployment benefits helped stabilize our economy and prevent families in bad situations from spiraling into something much worse during the Great Recession. A National Bureau of Economic Research study showed that unemployment compensation helped prevent 1.4 million foreclosures during the recession.
Those folks who are laid off and don’t have access to unemployment compensation fare far worse and are much more likely to rely on government programs and live below the poverty line.
Experts agree that Ohio’s unemployment compensation system is in need of reform. In the past, workers and employers came together and both made sacrifices to improve to the system. But now, lawmakers don’t want to come to the negotiating table and are attempting to balance unemployment compensation on the backs of unemployed workers.
That’s wrong, especially considering that the system is in need of desperate reform because employers have been paying too little into the system for a long time.
State Rep. Barbara Sears introduced House Bill 394 last November.
This extreme bill would create new and unnecessary hurdles to obtain unemployment compensation and then dramatically reduce benefits once an individual qualifies, including:
- Requiring workers to have wages in at least three quarters of the year. This is a new, made up standard that no other state uses. Ohio lawmakers are so desperate to shift the burden to workers that they’re willing to make up unproven standards.
- Expanding the definition of “just-cause” firing. So it’ll be easier to get fired and harder to prove you need and deserve assistance.
- Limiting the number of weeks Ohioans could receive benefits from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks. Ohioans need time to find a job and get back on their feet after a firing. In 2009, over 247,000 Ohioans exhausted their 26 weeks of benefits.
Unemployment benefits helps families stay above water during tough times. Putting up barriers to this critical program is another attack on families and workers that can’t be tolerated.