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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

More Ohioans Filed For Unemployment In The Last Two Weeks Than All Of Last Year

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services agency office in downtown Columbus houses one of the largest state agencies.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services agency office in downtown Columbus houses one of the largest state agencies.

Over 468,000 Ohioans have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks – that’s nearly a third more than the total number filed last year.  The coronavirus restrictions have been a huge blow to workers who lost their jobs, and the fallout has created a tremendous strain on the system that’s set up to help them.

Ohio reported a record-setting 272,117 initial claims for unemployment compensation last week. The week before, 187,780 claims were filed - which was larger than all but one previous monthly claim, from a week in December 1981 during the recession of the early 80s. 

The state saw 468,414 claims over the last two weeks, compared with 364,603 for all of 2019.

Ohio Job and Family Services director Kimberly Hall said an upgrade of the 16-year-old unemployment filing system to a cloud-based process was started last year, but wasn’t finished in time.

“The system was not designed initially to handle that influx essentially that came almost with a light switch on March 15 and so we started from behind," Hall said. "The full intention is to catch up and get ahead of this.”

Hall said the state has added extended call center hours – 1.7 million calls have been logged by the system in the last two weeks. But over 90% of people are filing online.

In two weeks, the state has paid out over $45 million to more than 108,000 workers. A 14-day time frame to get a check is the average, but that may be extended to 21 days.

Those who apply using the mass layoff number 2000180 could find their claims processed faster, but it’s not necessary.

It will be weeks before the state has a system for self-employed or 1099 workers to get benefits from a federal aid bill. That federal bill will also send $600 to every claimant, and Hall says she hopes those checks are on the way by May.

The federal bill also opens up another 13 weeks of eligibility for people who had previously exhausted their claims.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau