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. 

This page was updated on March 30, 2020 to include information on emergency, coronavirus-related unemployment through the CARES Act.

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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. 

The length of your 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. 

Major changes include: 

  • Through July 31, 2020, everyone who receives unemployment benefits will receive an additional $600 per week on top of the amount they'd normally receive through unemployment. 
  • Expanded eligibility for self-employed workers, freelancers, and workers without enough work history to qualify for normal state unemployment benefits. This emergency expansion does not apply to workers that can work from home with pay or are receiving paid sick leave. 
  • 13 weeks of additional benefits for people who qualify for the state's regular, non-emergency unemployment program.

To find complete details of the coronavirus-related federal changes, read this fact sheet from the National Employment Law Project.

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.

Through the CARES Act, there are exceptions to the typical eligibility requirements through December 31, 2020. Whether you qualify under the usual requirements for unemployment or under the emergency expansion may impact the amount or length of your benefits. 

Applying 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. 

ODJFS has issued special guidance for filing weekly claims related to COVID-19. 

If your application is denied

If you are denied 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.

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

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