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Unemployed Ohioans Want Representation On State Unemployment Panel

Jo Ingles

Late last month, Ohio ended the extra $300 unemployment benefit that had been coming from the federal government, saying it would encourage Ohioans to get back to work quicker. Advocates for unemployed and low-income Ohioans disagree, saying that decision is shortsighted and hurts families. 

The Executive Director of the Ohio Women's Public Policy Network, Elizabeth Brown, says the COVID-19 pandemic has hit women, especially those with children, the hardest. 

"It was women who really bore the brunt of the impact," Brown says.

Brown, who also sits on Columbus City Council, notes jobs traditionally performed by women, often low-income women of color, disappeared early in the pandemic. Now some of those jobs are coming back but Brown says many women find they no longer have the affordable childcare they need. And now, they can no longer draw the extra $300 a week in federal dollars to help them survive without employment.

Columbus resident Leah Haenszel, a respiratory therapist, says she has been in and out of work during the past year and struggles to maintain affordable child care. She was denied unemployment benefits due to fraudulent claims that used her address. She says people like her need to be able to sit on the state panel that makes decisions about unemployment. It includes lawmakers, employers, and union reps but no unemployed Ohioans.

“Our system needs to have voices of the people who are having to live in the system represented. That’s imperative," Haenazel says.

Democratic House Rep Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) says she and other Democrats have proposed bills, like the equal pay gender equity bill, that they think would help working moms. But the legislation has not gained traction in the Ohio Legislature.