Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Thursday that all restaurants and bars in the state have been ordered to close effective Sunday, March 15 at 9 p.m., with the exception of carryout and delivery options.
Along with that announcement, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the governor will extend unemployment benefits to workers who are quarantined as a result of COVID-19 exposure, as well as employees of businesses that temporarily shut down due to the pandemic.
“The governor is going to sign an executive order regarding unemployment compensation. This will assist Ohio workers directly impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency,” Husted said Sunday. “He will be issuing this executive order that will make several changes to Ohio’s unemployment law and state agency policy to enable workers to do not have paid leave benefits to access unemployment benefits during this period of emergency.”
“We will be broadening the current state policy to clarify that individuals that are quarantined by a health professional or by their employer are considered to be unemployed and will not be subject to the requirements to actively seek work, during this period of emergency,” Husted continued.
Husted said the order will also clarify the definition of unemployed, and it will apply to companies that determine it is necessary to temporarily shut down operations.
The one-week waiting period before receiving benefits will be waived and payments expedited, Husted said. The penalty for late reporting for employers will also be waived.
Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers.
Question 1: Will workers qualify for unemployment benefits if the coronavirus (COVID-19) causes an employer to shut down operations?
Answer: Ohio unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the federal weekly eligibility criteria.
Question 2: If an employer lays off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, will the employees be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits?
Answer: Ohio unemployment benefits are available to any individual who is unemployed through no fault of his/her own. If an employer must lay off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the federal weekly eligibility criteria.
Question 3: If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, will the employer’s unemployment taxes increase?
Answer: Unemployment benefits are proportionately charged to each employer based on weeks worked and wages earned in each individual’s base period. Contributory employers could see an increase in their tax rate, which would result in higher taxes. Reimbursing employers would be charged dollar for dollar for benefits paid, which could result in higher than expected unemployment costs.
Question 4: If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, can the benefits be charged to the mutual account?
Answer: No, Ohio law does not allow that.
Question 5: If an asymptomatic employee imposes a self-quarantine because of the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?
Answer: In most cases, no. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If the employer allowed this individual to telework, they would not qualify for benefits because they would not be unemployed. If the employer required the individual to stay home but did not offer telework, the individual might be eligible for benefits if they met the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.
Question 6: If an employee is in mandatory quarantine because of suspicion of having the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?
Answer: They might meet the initial eligibility criteria but not the ongoing federal eligibility criteria, which require them to be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking suitable work.
Question 7: If an employee is ill because of the coronavirus and unable to work, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?
Answer: No. The federal requirements mandate that claimants be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking suitable work. If someone is ill, they would not meet these criteria.
Question 8: Is the coronavirus considered a disaster, and can I receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance?
Answer: If the president of the United States declares the coronavirus a national disaster, and if individuals experience a loss of work in Ohio as a result, they may be eligible for unemployment benefits and/or Disaster Unemployment Assistance.