COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that the state will no longer distribute $300 per week unemployment subsidies, which is in addition to state unemployment benefits. The added unemployment benefit will expire June 26, DeWine said.

The $300 per week subsidies came from federal stimulus dollars, and were set to continue through the end of September. Other Republican governors, including the governors of Arizona and Georgia, have made similar announcements. 

“When this program was put in place, it was a lifeline for many Americans at a time when the only weapon we had in fighting the virus was to slow it’s spread through social distancing, masking, and sanitization,” DeWine said. “That is no longer the case. That is no longer our only tool in this fight. This assistance was always intended to be temporary.”

Earlier in the week, DeWine also announced that Ohio would reinstate a requirement that those on unemployment must actively look for work. The requirement returns the week of May 23.

The governor’s announcements come as industries in the state have said there is a labor shortage. Unemployment levels in Ohio reached pre-pandemic levels in March, dropping to 4.9%. Even though fewer Ohioans are on unemployment, Ohio’s workforce is smaller than before the pandemic. 

In February 2020, an estimated 5.9 million Ohioans were part of the state’s workforce, according to statistics. Among those in the workforce, 5.62 million Ohioans were employed. In March 2021, the workforce dipped to 5.75 million, with 5.48 million Ohioans holding jobs. The result of these figures is that the percentage of Ohioans in the workforce dropped from 63.7% in February 2020 to 62.1% in March 2021.

Although the number of Ohioans who are unemployed has dropped continually since last April when the unemployment rate jumped to 16.1% during the onset of the pandemic, participation in the workforce has continually dropped, according to federal figures.

DeWine’s announcement drew mixed reactions. 

The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) applauded the decision. The organization said the industry has faced staffing shortages.

“As Ohio’s economy has rebounded and employment opportunities are more plentiful, this is an appropriate step toward a full recovery,” said John Barker, President & CEO of the ORA. “Ohio’s unemployment system stepped up when it was needed during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis, but under Governor DeWine’s leadership, our economy is moving forward, and our state’s businesses, including nearly every one of Ohio’s restaurants, bars and foodservice locations, are now able to put many more Ohioans back to work and strengthen our state.”

Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit research institute, says that eliminating the subsidies will hurt families. 

“Pulling this supplement will put more women and their kids further behind,” said Hannah Halbert, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio. “People still waiting for child care to become available, those in communities with low vaccination rates, and people who live in communities where jobs are still scarce, still need support. Pulling the UC supplement ignores the challenges thousands of Ohioans still face.”