Health and Public Benefits

Unemployment benefits

If you live in Ohio and have lost your job, you may be able to receive cash assistance through Ohio's unemployment insurance program. Read more to find out if you might be eligible and how to apply for unemployment. 

This page was last updated on 1.21.21.

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Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

If you live in Ohio and have lost your job, you may be able to get cash assistance through Ohio's unemployment program. See the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' (ODJFS) unemployment tool to estimate the amount of money you could get based on your old wages. 

How long you can receive unemployment benefits will depend on your work history. It will also depend on how long you stay unemployed.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) changes

The  Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This law made changes to unemployment benefits to support workers suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. On December 27, 2020, a new stimulus bill was signed that extended some of the benefits from the CARES Act.

Major changes include: 

  • Expanded eligibility for self-employed workers, freelancers, and workers without enough work history to qualify for normal state unemployment benefits. This emergency expansion is called "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance" or PUA. PUA does not apply to workers that can work from home with pay or are receiving paid sick leave. PUA benefits week were extended an additional 11 weeks starting December 27 through March 14, 2021.
    • Update (1.21.21): ODJFS is projecting a start date of February 6 for new PUA applications. If you were previously approved for PUA benefits, you can file weekly claims and get paid. ODJFS is projecting a start date of February 26 for the additional 11 weeks of PUA benefits. Benefits are retroactive to December 27, 2020.
  • Additional benefits for people who qualify for the state's regular, non-PUA unemployment program. This extension is called "Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation" or PEUC. If the PEUC program is in effect when your regular benefits are about to expire, ODJFS will send you a written notice with instructions to file for PEUC benefits. PEUC benefits were extended an additional 11 weeks starting December 27 through March 14, 2021.
    • Update (1.21.21): New PEUC claims can now be filed. If you were previously approved for PEUC benefits, you can now file claims for those weeks and receive payment. ODJFS is projecting a start date of January 31 for when it will start paying the additional 11 weeks of PEUC benefits. Benefits are retroactive to December 27, 2020.
  • Every person receiving unemployment benefits will receive an additional $300 per week through March 14, 2021. This additional benefit is called "Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation" or (FPUC). 
    • Update (1.21.21): ODJFS has started paying the additional $300 in FPUC to all eligible claimants. Benefits are retroactive to December 27, 2020.

Please be patient with ODJFS as they process these changes. The new law requires ODJFS to make several technical changes to its website so there will be a gap in payments. Your benefits will be retroactive to December 27, 2020. We will update this page with additional information as it becomes available.

Read ODJFS's updates for more information on the new stimulus and CARES Act extensions. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) application

ODJFS has launched the application system for PUA for the expanded eligibility for self-employed workers, freelancers, and workers without enough work history. Go to the PUA online application to apply. ODJFS has also published step-by-step instructions for completing the PUA application. 

You will need the following documents before you start your application: 

  • Social security number, date of birth and driver’s license or state ID number
  • Name, address, telephone number, and valid email address
  • Name, address, telephone number and dates of employment for 2019
  • Reason for unemployment
  • Dependent information (Spouse or Children), including social security number and date of birth
  • Banking information for direct deposit
  • 2019 tax return, if available. If you haven't filed your taxes for 2019 yet, you will be required to provide your 2019 tax return to ODJFS within 21 days of your application. 

Check out the ODJFS FAQs for more information on applying for PUA.

Eligibility for traditional unemployment benefits

To qualify for unemployment, you must: 

  • Be unemployed "through no fault of your own." This means that if you quit or were fired for "just cause," it is likely that you will not be able to get unemployment benefits. If you were laid-off or the business you worked for closed, it will likely count as being unemployed "through no fault of your own." 
  • Have worked at least 20 weeks and earned enough money at a "covered" employer during the "base period" of your claim. 
    • A "covered employer" means that you worked for a business that pays unemployment taxes to the state. Most employers are "covered," but some, like small family businesses or religious organizations, might not be.
    • Your "base period" is a year-long period that starts at a certain time in the last year based on the date that you are applying for unemployment. See the base periods for 2020 here. 
    • You must have earned an average of at least $269 per week.
    • If you have gotten unemployment benefits before, you must have worked at a new job that meets all the requirements above since you stopped receiving benefits.

If you quit your job because of COVID-19

Generally, if you quit your job you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. However, under the new CARES Act Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines, you may still qualify if you had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19. For example:

  • You tested positive for or were diagnosed with COVID-19 and have now recovered. However, you now have health complications that make it impossible for you to do the core functions of your job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.
  • You tested positive for or were diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been advised by a health care professional to quarantine and you can't telework. 
  • You came into direct contact with someone who tested positive for or was diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been advised by a health care professional to quarantine and you can't telework.

Will I lose my unemployment if I refuse to return to work or quit because I don't feel safe going back? 
The answer is maybe. While the CARES Act has some exceptions for workers directly impacted by COVID-19, if you are asked to return to work and refuse or quit you may lose your unemployment.

To keep your unemployment you would have to show "just cause" to refuse or quit. Simply saying that you are afraid to return to work isn't enough. To show just cause, you would need to prove that a reasonable person, under similar circumstances, would refuse or quit.

On June 16, 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order clarifying the definition of “just cause” during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. During the state of emergency, “just cause” includes:

  • A recommendation from a medical professional that you should not return to work because you fall into a category that is considered “high risk” for contracting COVID-19 by the CDC, and your employer cannot offer you a teleworking option;
  • Being 65 years of age or older;
  • “Tangible evidence” of a health and safety violation by the employer that keeps the employee from being able to social distance, practice hygiene and wear protective equipment;
  • Being prescribed a quarantine period after potential exposure to COVID-19 by a medical or health professional; or
  • Staying home to care for a family member who is suffering from COVID-19 or has been prescribed a quarantine period by a medical or health professional.

If you don’t fall into one of the reasons above, it can be tough to prove just cause. The state will be looking at each case carefully.  

If you have safety concerns, your first step should be to talk to your manager and human resources department about your concerns. Keep the discussion focused on safety and your specific concerns. You can learn more about the safety requirements for employers to reopen at Responsible RestartOhio. Make sure to keep records of all your conversations and emails, including the date, who you spoke with and what was said. Talk to a lawyer. You may qualify for legal aid. To find your local legal aid, use our Find Your Legal Aid tool. 

How to apply for unemployment benefits

You can apply for unemployment benefits online at the ODFJS website. When you apply you will need:

  • Your Social Security number and driver's license or state ID number.
  • The name, address, phone number of your employer(s) in the last six weeks.
  • The dates you worked there and the reason you became unemployed from each job.
  • The Social Security numbers and dates of birth for your dependents.  
  • If you recently worked out of state or for the federal government, or you are not a US citizen, you may have to provide more information.

Due to COVID-19, ODJFS is experiencing very high call volumes to apply for unemployment benefits. If you can, please apply online to streamline your application process. 

This also means that the ODJFS system may being experiencing technical issues due to the larger than usual number of applicants. If you are not able to access the ODFJS online system, please be patient. The ODJFS team is working to resolve technical issues as they come up. If you cannot get through to file online due to technical issues, ODJFS has announced that your benefits will be retroactive to the time that you qualified. 

Filing weekly claims

If ODJFS approves your application, you need to turn in weekly claims. They will send you a "New Claim Instruction Sheet," which will explain how and where to submit your weekly claims. It will take at least three weeks, maybe more, for your first claim to be paid after you start filing. Keep filing your weekly claims during this waiting period. You will not be paid for weeks that you don't submit your claim on time. 

In an effort to streamline claims processing and expedite payments, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has a new weekly claim filing process for Ohioans who have been approved to receive unemployment benefits. Starting on Sunday, April 26, 2020 individuals filing weekly claims should do so on the day of the week specified below, based on the first letter of their last name.

  • Sunday: A through H
  • Monday: I through P
  • Tuesday: Q through Z
  • Wednesday - Saturday: All

ODJFS has issued special guidance for filing weekly claims if you are not required to conduct work-search activities. Work-search activities were temporarily waived on March 16, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be required again for new applicants starting on December 6, 2020.

If you apply for unemployment benefits on or after December 6, 2020, you will be required to conduct work-search activities. Work-search requirements will be waived for individuals quarantined or isolated by order of a medical professional, local health authority or employer, per the Governor’s Executive Order. ODJFS encourages you to conduct work-search activities virtually to the extent that it is possible. Read the guidance from ODJFS for more information on what qualifies as a work-search activity.

If your application for unemployment benefits is denied

If you are denied unemployment benefits, you can appeal the decision. You only have 21 days from the date the denial notice was mailed to submit a written request for appeal. If your written request is late, your appeal will be denied.

The same is true if you receive an over-payment notice. If you receive an over-payment notice, file an appeal within 21 days. 

If your application for unemployment benefits is approved, is also possible for your employer to "request reconsideration" or argue that you are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. If your employer asks for reconsideration, you will receive notice of this. If you lose the reconsideration, you have 21 days from the date the notice was mailed to submit a written request for appeal. If your written request is late, your appeal will be denied.

If any of these situations apply to you, contact legal aid for help. They may be able to help you prepare for the unemployment hearing, or even represent you at the hearing in some cases.

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