Ohio lawmakers are pushing new legislation that would reduce unemployment benefits and enforce new eligibility requirements to help strengthen the state’s insolvent unemployment benefits system. The overhaul will increase the taxable wage base for employers and reduce workers’ eligibility for benefits. Zach Schiller, Research Director at Policy Matters Ohio said, “Slashing worker benefits and lowering employer taxes is not a balanced solvency plan,” while Andrew Doehrel, President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce expressed this “is a good step forward.”
Under the proposed bill, the taxable wage base on which employers pay state unemployment taxes will rise from $9,000 to $11,000 until the Unemployment Compensation Fund reaches the minimum safe level, an increase of more than 22%. Once the minimum safe level is reached, the taxable wage base would return to $9,000.
House Bill 394 would reduce the maximum time Ohioans could get unemployment benefits from the current 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks-20 weeks – tied for lowest in the nation. In addition, unemployment claims could be denied if an employee has three “no-call, no shows” or if he or she is terminated due to a violation of the terms of an employee handbook.
Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Maumee) said it is “appropriate” to cut benefits, noting that Ohioans now collect unemployment benefits for an average of 14 weeks. “The vast majority of the people who find themselves on unemployment are back to work in just a couple months or less,” she said.
The legislation, which has the support of House Republican leadership, is likely to pass the Ohio House in January, according to Rep. Barbara Sears, who is sponsoring the measure.
For more information about House Bill 394 and to learn about additional changes in the bill, click here.