Nearly 600,000 Ohio workers could benefit from new Senate bill

COLOMB, Ohio – A new report found that a US Senate bill would expand eligibility for unemployment benefits to nearly 600,000 Ohio workers.

The Unemployment Insurance Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would lower the threshold for how much workers must be paid to qualify for benefits if they lose their jobs.

Michael Shields, a researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, explained that Ohio has one of the strictest income tests among states: To qualify, a worker must be paid at least $ 280 per week and work at least 20 weeks a year.

“A lot of people end up being excluded from coverage, and that actually includes a lot of people who are very committed to the workforce,” Shields said. “The typical person who would be newly covered by this measure worked 37 weeks in 2019 and worked a median of 26 weeks per year.”

To qualify for unemployment under the bill, workers would have to be paid at least $ 1,500 a year and $ 1,000 at least a quarter, compared to a minimum of $ 5,600 in Ohio in a year.

Sponsors of the bill are pushing for it to be included as an amendment in the currently debated Build Back Better social spending program.

The measure would extend coverage to four in five Ohio workers currently ineligible for UI.

Shields noted that it would also make coverage fairer in Ohio by reducing current disparities.

“For example, women must work an average of two and a half hours more than men to qualify for benefits,” Shields observed. “And black workers in Ohio have to work four hours longer than their white counterparts to be covered by unemployment benefits if they were to be made redundant.”

The report also found that it would expand unemployment qualifications for those in some of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, including accommodation and food services. Currently, about 44% of these workers are excluded from benefits, compared to 15% of all workers.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

Source: Ohio News Connection

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