DeWine says state doesn’t have money to supplement unemployment, but silent on more federal dollars to states

By: - August 12, 2020 12:40 am

CINCINNATI, OH – AUGUST 01: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for greet one another onstage before President Donald Trump was to speak at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena on August 1, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The president was critical of his Democratic rivals, condemning what he called “wasted money” that has contributed to blight in inner cities run by Democrats, according to published reports. (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images)

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday said the state doesn’t have the money to supplement unemployment benefits. But he didn’t speak up for a plan to send state and local governments additional money.

In a press conference, DeWine praised a move by the Trump administration to use executive orders to replace a $600-a-week federal supplement to state unemployment insurance that expired at the end of July with a $300 weekly payment.

“I think what the president did was the right thing,” DeWine said. “The president was looking at a stalemate. He wanted to move the ball, maybe get people to negotiate more, but also try to do a positive thing.”

The now-expired $600 payment has been credited with keeping many of the more than 30 million unemployed Americans from financial ruin. More generally, it’s been credited with keeping the larger economy afloat amid the dislocation caused by the coronavirus.

House Democrats in May passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill that would have continued the $6oo supplement.

For their part, House Republicans waited until late July to pass a $1 trillion relief bill that would have cut the unemployment supplement to $200 a week. Even that bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded, probably didn’t have enough votes to pass his chamber.

On Saturday, Trump signed a series of executive orders and other measures, including one that would have transferred money from disaster relief to pay for additional unemployment. Critics said the move is of dubious constitutionality and that it will take time for states’ overwhelmed, antiquated unemployment systems to begin disbursing the funds.

DeWine’s press secretary, Dan Tierney, on Monday said the governor’s office was waiting on additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor before being able to begin the switch-over. He said he didn’t know when unemployed Ohioans might begin receiving the money.

Trump’s original proposal called for states to match the $300-a-week federal supplement with an additional $100.

That would cost the state $43 million a week, using data for the week ending July 18 released on Monday by the Ohio Office of Management and Budget. DeWine on Tuesday said Ohio doesn’t have the money for that — much less enough to restore the $600 supplement to 427,000 unemployed Ohioans.

“There’s no money in the unemployment fund to do this, We would have to take the money from  someplace else,” he said. “We’re looking at keeping money set aside for testing and things we absolutely have to do to keep people safe and keep our economy moving forward.”

However, DeWine didn’t answer when asked if he supported congressional Democrats’ demand that any coronavirus-relief bill include $915 billion to prop up the finances of state and local governments. The White House’s refusal to agree to the money has been cited as an important cause of the current stalemate.

DeWine’s Office of Budget and Management on Monday didn’t specifically weigh in on the Democratic proposal, but it said government assistance has a role to play in the state’s economic future.

“Economic recovery, however, will be strongly linked to the course of the pandemic and may be dependent on additional federal relief packages,” the monthly report said.

And kDeWine himself called on Congress to get to work.

“I am an eternal optimist,” he said. “I spent 20 years in Congress. I’ve seen hopeless cases where no one thought there could be a deal and then there was a deal.”

He added, “I think there’s a deal to be had between the House and the Senate and the administration and I urge Congress to get about the job of getting that done.”


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.