Ohio tops 1.1M unemployment claims over 7 weeks during virus


By John Seewer and Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press



COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — More than 1.1 million people filed unemployment claims in the past seven weeks as Ohio’s stay-at-home order depressed the economy and led to widespread layoffs, the state reported Thursday.

For the week ending May 2, just over 61,000 people filed jobless claims, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That’s down from the nearly 100,000 claims filed the previous week.

The numbers announced Thursday pushed total unemployment claims during the pandemic to 1,118,569 or about 1,000 more than the total number of claims over the past three years. The state says it has now distributed more than $1.9 billion in unemployment checks to more than 536,000 claimants.

Nationally, nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. Roughly 33.5 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the seven weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began, forcing millions of employers to close their doors.

Thursday’s report arrived a few hours before Republican Gov. Mike DeWine was expected to announce his long-awaited plan for the reopening of bars and restaurants.

Meanwhile, some have criticized the state for its publication of a website where employers can report employees “who quit or refuse work when it is available due to COVID-19.”

Fear of the virus is not a sufficient reason to refuse work, Kimberly Hall, Job and Family Services director, said earlier this week. But the agency also looks at employment situations that are unsafe for workers.

That would include “that your work environment, the conditions there, are such that you’re at risk, and from a health and safety standard,” Hall said, according to WCPO-TV.

The state also offers a website where employees can report unsafe conditions, said Job and Family Services spokesman Bret Crow. He added: “It is our expectation that in most situations employers and employees will be able to work together to ensure a safe environment for employees to return to work.”

Many Ohioans are dealing with worries over workplaces having enough personal protective equipment, plus how they’re going to care for children with schools and day care facilities closed, said Sen. Kenny Yuko of Cleveland, the top-ranking Senate Democrat.

“We should be coming together to support Ohio workers during this crisis, not finding new ways to make their lives more stressful,” he said in a statement Thursday.

CASES

The number of confirmed and probable deaths associated with the coronavirus has reached 1,225, state health officials said Tuesday. The department noted more than 21,000 presumptive and confirmed cases of the virus, including just over 4,000 hospitalizations.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

By John Seewer and Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press