Times Bulletin News Writer

According to the National Employment Law Project, Ohio is one of 13 states plus the District of Columbia that is missing out on federal stimulus funding for extended unemployment benefits. State legislators would have to make a change in the law to make those who have reached the end of their already-extended unemployment benefits eligible for up to 20 more weeks of benefits.

"There are a half-million Americans who are going to reach the end of their extended unemployment benefits starting this week," commented Tim Bradley of the National Employment Law Project. A provision in the stimulus bill would cover the extension of benefits beyond the first phase of 26 weeks and the second phase of 33 weeks, but that provision kicks in only for states that average more than 6.5 percent unemployment in a three-month period. Those states would receive funding for 13 weeks of benefits, and if the rate clears 8.0 percent for a three-month period, another 7 weeks are available.

"Although the Ohio state unemployment has averaged 7.8 percent over the last three months, Ohio is not one of the states that has taken advantage of these extra benefits," Bradley stated.

Dennis Evans, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services agrees that the law needs to be changed for Ohioans to receive the additional benefits. The change would have to do with the trigger to activate the the federal dollars. Ohio figures unemployment on this basis on the insured unemployment rate, which Evans said is currently at 4.66 percent, even though the overall jobless rate in Ohio for February is 9.4 percent.

Evans explained, "The insured unemployment rate looks at unemployment among those who were actually covered by unemployment taxes at the time they were out of work. That's a much smaller rate than the total unemployment rate, which is the rate that is published every month." The trigger for the insured unemployment rate is 5.0 percent - a mark the state has not yet hit.

"The trigger is set in state law, and that would have to be changed," summarized Evans.

"Over half a million jobless workers will run out of unemployment benefits in March and April if their states do not act now," said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. "The Extended Benefits program is a straightforward, federally-funded extension to continue benefits for workers in high-unemployment states who have already run out of emergency unemployment compensation. These benefits would come to very long-term unemployed workers who still can't find work after receiving all of their EUC benefits. This is the only provision in the stimulus bill that addresses the needs of these long-term jobless workers, and states should not overlook it," Owens stated.

According to the National Employment Law Project report, 16 states and Puerto Rico already qualify for the extended benefits program under one of the program's provisions: Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Alaska, Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Washington qualify for 13 weeks of benefits. Oregon and Rhode Island already qualify for 20 weeks of extended benefits. As a result, about 405,000 workers in those states will qualify for extended benefits when their EUC benefits expire between now and June. States that would have to change law to allow workers to receive the extended benefits besides Ohio are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and Tennessee.