We’ve received a lot of questions about unemployment compensation over the past couple of weeks, and we wanted to give you some tips that might help you understand the claims process better and get your claims processed as quickly as possible.

1. What is the best way to file?

If you can file online, do so. The address is unemployment.ohio.gov. The state rolled out a new frontend companion site, Unemployment Help, that provides additional unemployment information resources. 

ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall advises, “to the greatest degree possible use the online resources. We still have challenges with the phones.”

Online claims are the fastest and help you avoid long wait times on the phone. 

You’ll need to have handy information like your social security number, address, and phone, work history, dependent information. 

The mass layoff number for COVID-19 is 2000180. And many claims begin on March 15th, the day the governor’s executive order was signed, but could be earlier or later depending on your date of unemployment. 

2. Do I qualify for unemployment?

To qualify under regular unemployment insurance, you must have worked 20 weeks during the base period or an alternate base period, and have made a weekly average of $269. The base period is a rolling period of time, and for COVID claims beginning on March 15th, 2020, between October 2018 and September 2019. The alternate base period runs from January to December of 2019

Ohioans made almost 700 thousand approved regular UI claims since March 15th, and Hall says that $132M has been paid to 207K clients. 

3. What happens if I was denied? 

 If you feel you were denied and do meet the requirements under regular unemployment, you can file an appeal online and submit wage information in an affidavit. Your employer will need to verify your actual wages. 

But if you don’t meet those requirements, you won’t qualify for unemployment now. But you may qualify under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

In Ohio, Job and Family Services says they cannot yet approve claims under PUA because it requires a new system. That system won’t be available until May. Other states are accepting PUA claims ahead of payment, but Hall says each state’s technology, capacity, and program varies.

“Our system, which I’ve shared before, is generating some of the challenges. It’s tied to our network versus being in the cloud,” explains Hall. “As we know, there is an infinite benefit to being in the cloud, versus what we previously had, it’s a 16-year-old system. And so, depending on not sure what state, but depending if they have been able to advance into more cloud-based that allows them to move more quickly.”

4. Why was my initial claim approved, but my weekly claim denied? 

We’ve also been told by job and family services that some individuals’ weekly claims may be denied and then a new claim filed on their behalf. This is done as a workaround. 

From Director Hall:

“When people see claims denied when you’ve actually received an approval at the front end, and you received the week over week denials, that is likely due to the system challenges we are experiencing, and we ask people to ignore those messages.”

5. Check correspondence daily

Check your correspondence online for updates. Job and family services send notifications on your unemployment status, if you need additional documentation, or if there are issues with your claim. 

But, because of the 16-year old system being overloaded with claims, these notices sometimes appear before they can be viewed. JFS says that they are working with their vendor to resolve this, but for many filers, this is still an issue.

If your claim was approved, you would see a correspondence with the subject UI claim initially allowed. This means you’ll begin to receive a benefit payment by your desired payment method soon. 

The Lt. Governor reported Friday that JFS says its caught up with payments for approved claims as of last week, but claimants as of Saturday were still waiting for payment in approved status. 

Spectrum News did reach out to JFS to explain more information about claims and the payment schedule, and are awaiting a response.

Finally, JFS says in addition to the phone, there’s also an email address uctech@jfs.ohio.gov for questions if you have already filed your claim. But, that email address has also received thousands of inquiries. 

We’ll continue to follow unemployment issues, and try to bring your concerns to state officials. Please continue to reach out on social media, or by visiting our website and sending us your experiences.