As state law expires, proof of work search returns to unemployment benefits

Jobless workers demonstrate in support of continued federal unemployment benefits in the pandemic economy. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

As the pandemic continues to affect jobs in Ohio, state residents applying for new unemployment benefits will once again have to prove they’ve been looking for work to receive benefits.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced that any new unemployment applicants are required to conduct “work-search activities” unless quarantined or isolated for medical reasons.

The work-search requirement was suspended in House Bill 197, a bill that made changes in response to COVID-19, including absentee voting expansions, educational testing waivers, a pause on utility disconnection and other employment compensation provisions.

Under the employment section of HB 197, individuals weren’t disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if health or administrative orders didn’t allow them to work. It also suspended the waiting period before receiving unemployment benefits.

“The (ODJFS) director’s authority to waive the requirement for any individual ends when the emergency declared by the executive order ends or December 1, 2020, whichever occurs first,” the language of the law stated.

ODJFS director Kimberly Hall said in a statement that the reinstated rules only apply to new claims and that work searches can and should be conducted virtually as much as possible “given the current high numbers of COVID-19 cases.”

Members in good standing with a union that refers employees to jobs, and those in approved education or training have met the requirements with proof of progress.

According to a budget report released in November, the Ohio Office of Budget and Management recorded an 0.8% increase in nonfarm payroll employment from August to September, but remained down more than 7% from September 2019.

The state’s unemployment rate was at 5.6% in October, according to the most recent ODJFS report, down from 8.3% in September. The October number was up from 4.1% a year before.

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