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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

When Will Your Relief Check Come? Sherrod Brown Says It May be Three Weeks

photo of Sherrod Brown
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is hopeful people will start receiving stimulus funds in three weeks.

Unemployment numbers out Thursday show a huge spike both in Ohio and nationwide. In Ohio, more than 468,000 people have applied for benefits. That’s 100,000 more than all of last year.

Ohioans are anxiously awaiting financial help, including federal assistance of $1,200 promised to those making less than $75,000 annually. Senator Sherrod Brown tells WKSU he’s working to ensure those payments go out soon.  

"I talked to the Secretary of Treasury personally yesterday," Brown said. "It's his job to get this money out the door. He is saying three weeks. Unfortunately, he said three weeks last week." 

Brown says part of the problem is that the Trump administration replaced many longtime government workers by  less experienced people. Brown describes them as, "political people who don't really know, kind of how to run the government."

This has delayed the process, but Brown said the administration is under a lot of pressure to get the money out, so he's hopeful it will distributed in three weeks.

Brown says the federal unemployment benefit is available "even if you are a part time worker, or a gig worker or self-employed, you are still eligible. Even if you weren't eligible for Ohio unemployment in the past, you're still eligible for the $600 a week federal unemployment."

During briefings last weekend, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted indicated the state was not technologically prepared to deploy the system the federal government wanted to use to receive unemployment applications. He said the state had engaged a private contractor to prepare the system. But that apparently has changed.

"My understanding, after talking to the Secretary of the Treasury, is that the money goes to the states and they disperse it," Brown said. "The feds will not be able to get a whole system up and running. People should not have to apply twice, they should have to apply once."

The latest numbers from the Department of Labor indicate nationwide unemployment filings exceed six million. "I assume that every week these numbers are going to continue to be higher," Brown said. "Every Unemployment Bureau is getting swamped. But file, and they will do the best they can as quickly as they can."  

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services expects to add 1,000 employees by the end of next week. During the briefing Thursday, Husted said people who file for unemployment can expedite their applications by when they file at unemployment.ohio.gov by using the mass layoff number 2000180.

ODJFS is expanding call center hours. People can call 1-877-644-6562 weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  

Husted noted that many employers, such as grocery stores and delivery services, are desparate to hire additional employees to meet increased demand. The state has set up a job posting board at  coronavirus.ohio.gov/jobsearch. Husted said 11,900 positions have already been listed.  

Brown would like to see those workers be properly compensated. He suggests the next round of federal relief should include pandemic pay. "They are working under duress. They're working under higher levels of anxiety and they're working under potential exposure to this coronavirus," Brown said. "So we should provide them in the next package, some kind of pandemic pay for this work that they're doing that the rest of us don't have to."