CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The news isn’t great for those waiting to file for unemployment in Ohio.
Kimberly Hall is the director of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. She says the system was not designed to handle the current influx and that it is overwhelmed.
Last February, Hall says ODJFS received around 111,000 calls statewide. This year, it’s over 1.7 million.
“We absolutely started from behind,” Hall said. “The system was not designed to handle that influx, essentially, that came almost with a light switch on March 15th.”
Among those waiting is Arielle Ashcraft, a bartender at Walburger’s in Downtown Cincinnati. She filed for unemployment three weeks ago, she says. Now, like so many, she is forced to wait.
“Unfortunately, I had to dip into my savings," she explained. “And slowly but surely it keeps going down and down and down. And I am slowly but surely running out of money.”
ODJFS says around 108,000 people have been paid so far, equating to $45 million in unemployment checks. Meanwhile, Hall says the average wait time has crept up to 21 days from 14 last week.
“I know that patience is very hard during this time when there is such a challenging need," she said. "But the payments are being issued.”
If you have received a notification online but can’t open it, Hall says that means your application is still being processed.
If you are one of the people who works restaurant industry, but did not meet the minimum guidelines of income, OJFS doesn’t have good news.
“So they are not meeting the threshold,” Hall explained. “The $269-a-week threshold for our current unemployment system. The federal government considered lifting it as part of the CARES Act threshold, but unfortunately that did not make it in.”
The CARES Act also does not have a provision for those who lost work and owe child support. Those people are still expected to pay.
ODJFS says the fastest way to get your unemployment application in remains online.
There is a step-by-step guide the ODJFS has created to help those who need to file unemployment. Benefits are retroactive to when a person became eligible.
If you call, Hall says the best time to do so is during non-peak hours, like on the weekends.
Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted said Thursday they are adding staff and tech capacity to the unemployment hotline and expanded the hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.