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. 

Expanded unemployment benefits related to COVID-19 ended on September 4.

This page was last updated on 9.10.21.

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Understanding the Basics

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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

Expanded benefits related to COVID-19 ended on September 4, 2021. 

Taxes on unemployment income

Due to the pandemic, Ohioans who earned less than $150,000 do no have to pay state or federal income tax on the first $10,200 in unemployment income they received in 2020. Here's how to get these tax benefits:

Federal income tax

If you haven't filed your taxes yet: 

  • On the standard federal 1040 form, you will list the full amount of unemployment benefits you received on line 7 titled "capital gain or (loss)," according to the IRS.
  • This total is listed on a 1099-G form you received. Because of potential unemployment fraud, you should check that that number matches what you actually got.
  • Then, you list the amount you can exclude on line 8 titled "other income" as a negative amount (in parentheses). For example, if you received $12,000 in unemployment, you would list ($10,200) here, because that is the maximum amount you can exclude from income taxes. 
  • Check out the IRS's free file resources to take advantage of free filing options.

If you have already filed your taxes: 

State income tax

If you haven't filed your taxes yet: 

  • You do not need to list unemployment benefits on state tax forms because they will be accounted for in your federal adjusted gross income. 

If you have already filed your taxes:

  • You do need to file an amended return for state income tax and school district income tax. Make sure you check the box for an amended return and provide a reason: your federal adjusted gross income decreased.

Eligibility for 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.

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

Work-search activities were temporarily waived on March 16, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but were required again for new applicants starting on December 6, 2020, and will be required for all recipients starting May 23, 2021. If this change affects you, you will receive direct notification from ODJFS. Read the guidance from ODJFS for more information on what qualifies as a work-search activity and get more help with work-search activities from Ohio Means Jobs.

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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