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ODJFS Director offers message to unemployed Ohioans: ‘We’re not finished yet, we’re not going to rest’

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:42 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - It is undeniable that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has had its share of unemployment system problems throughout the pandemic.

ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder wants Ohioans to know that despite a backlog of appeals, the situation is improving.

“It’s undeniable that there has been tremendous improvement,” Damschroder said. “When you look at the entire program, we’re not finished yet. We’re not going to rest. We’re not going to let up until all of the different pieces that we have to do including appeals adjudication are complete.”

Roughly 134,000 people are awaiting a result of an appeal to try to get their benefits. Roughly 111,000 of those individuals have been waiting for more than 21 days.

“When I joined the team in March, we would focus on the very first things that we could do first, which was claims, initial claims adjudication, and then those things move through the process,” Damschroder said. “Then we would focus our efforts on appeals. And so that’s what we’re doing. We’re following through with that plan. Obviously, we’re not at all satisfied that there are claims that are pending longer than we would like. And we continue to focus on that.”

ODJFS says it has reduced the number of appeals older than 21 days by nearly 25% from July 29.

Damschroder said the department is currently forecasting that most redeterminations will be issued by early December.

Account Takeovers

Damshroder addressed those who believe they have had their unemployment benefits stolen through an account takeover, where a criminal changes the bank routing number, diverting the funds elsewhere.

Currently, there is not a system in place for a victim to try and get their money back.

Damschroder pledges to have the system in place by the end of the month.

“We’re still in the process of building that tool,” Damschroder said. “It is one of the top priorities that I have along with all of the other priorities that we’re developing. I certainly understand and empathize. The acts of criminals have put those individuals in a really dire situation. And it is a priority for us to create the mechanism by which they can apply for that reimbursement.”

Damschroder believes the work his office has done in partnership with the private sector has improved the situation.

“My job is to do what we can to lock the front door to keep those things from happening. And then create a process by which you know, claimants can be made whole,” said Damschroder.

What if it happens again?

The last time ODJFS had the kind of influx of claims that bogged down the system was during the great recession of 2008

When asked whether the system would be prepared for another influx, Damschroder said his office would expand to do its best under the circumstances.

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