Ohio reinstates work-search requirement for unemployment benefits: ‘It only makes sense’

The state of Ohio plans to reinstate a rule that requires residents seeking to collect weekly unemployment benefits to prove that they are actively searching for a job.

The state will reinstate the weekly work-search mandate starting the week of May 23, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced late Monday afternoon.

“Now that Ohioans have had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and can safely return to work, it only makes sense that we restore work-search requirements for everyone,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in statement.

The state jobs agency previously suspended the rule in 2020, when the virus became a pandemic and the federal government authorized states to waive it. However, the agency reinstated the work-search requirement in December for new unemployment claims, while exempting existing claims.

Work-search activities include applying for a job, attending a resume-writing course, or creating and maintaining a re-employment plan on OhioMeansJobs.com, according to the news release. Some people will be exempt from conducting work-search activities, including employees on a temporary layoff of 45 days or less, and individuals in approved training, under state law.

Job-seekers who are members in good standing with a union hiring hall that refers its members to jobs will meet their weekly work-search requirement, the release said.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will notify directly unemployed people affected by the change, the state said.

The extended federal unemployment benefits, which were extended until September because of the pandemic, is the biggest barrier to getting people back to work, said Chris Kershner, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. However, plenty of jobs are available in the Dayton region, so people who want to work should be searching for those jobs, he said.

“Employers have job openings right now that they need filled, and they want to fill those jobs with hard working people in the Dayton area,” Kershner said.

The strides the economy has made of late and the progress with vaccinating people indicate that it’s time to reinstate requirements to encourage Ohioans to rejoin the workforce, and ensure they are looking for jobs to qualify for these benefits, said Rea S. Hederman Jr., vice president of policy at conservative think tank The Buckeye Institute.

Many Ohioans are willing to return to work and they’ll be looking for jobs. However, child care remains in short supply and many of the available jobs in food service and hospitality are paying the sub-minimum wage, Hannah Halbert, said executive director of Policy Matters Ohio.

“Cutting the unemployment system will not solve these barriers to work but better wage and child care supports can,” she said.

The U.S. added 266,000 jobs in April, and although that figure fell short of expectations, experts say the economy will continue to grow in the coming months. The U.S. unemployment rate increased to 6.1%.

Ohio’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in March, down from 5.0% in February. April’s unemployment rate will be released on May 21.

Reporter Josh Sweigart contributed to this report.

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