The Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is the party responsible for handling unemployment benefits in Ohio.
Republicans in the Ohio legislature tried twice in 2016 to modify how the state funds its unemployment insurance program. Both times, they failed, thanks to push back by organized labor. One bill sought to add a state tax to workers’ paychecks, the second sought to cut unemployment benefits. Both bills were to reduce the strain on the state’s unemployment fund.
The state’s Republicans promised to negotiate with labor unions to find some way to make the fund solvent that both sides can agree upon. It’s a sign that Ohio’s laborers should become familiar with the state’s unemployment laws, learn how to file a claim that’s error free and fight for benefits if necessary.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in OH
To be eligible to receive benefits in Ohio, you must have earned enough wages in a 12-month period from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance law. Your employer will inform you they are covered. You must also be:
- Fully or partially unemployed through no fault of your own
- Be a US citizen or authorized to work in the US
- Be able and available to work suitable employment
You must look for work while you receive benefits. To that end, you must register with Ohio’s employment assistance program, Ohio Means Jobs.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
Unemployed Through No Fault of Your Own
Your actions or decisions cannot be the cause of your separation from work. If you were laid off or your plant closed, you are not at fault for your dismissal and may be eligible for benefits.
Able and Available
You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file benefits. You must also be available to accept suitable employment. Suitable employment is work similar to what you’ve done previously and/or at a salary similar to what you’ve received before. It can be work that you’ve received training to perform.
You must be a US citizen, or be able to show proof that you are legally authorized to work in the US, such as holding an alien registration card.
Wage Requirements and the Base Period
The ODJFS will look at the wages and hours you worked over a 12-month period called the base period. The period is divided into quarters. The first four of the last five quarters you worked prior to filing a claim will be your base period.
The state uses the average weekly wage to determine whether you earned enough during the base period. To meet the minimum qualification for eligibility, you must have averaged $243 per week during the base period if you filed your claim in 2016. You must have worked at least 20 weeks during the base period to be eligible.
You can determine your average weekly wage by dividing your total wages during the base period by the weeks you actually worked (earned wages) during the period.
If you fail to qualify through this calculation, the ODJFS will use an alternative base period. The alternative base period is the last four quarters prior to your filing a claim.
Calculating Your Benefit Amount
The ODJFS also uses base period wages to calculate how much you’ll receive in benefits. The amount you receive each week, the weekly benefit amount (WBA) is one-half of the average weekly wage during the base period.
You can claim dependents when you file for unemployment, similar to how you claim dependents on your tax return. You receive additional money for eligible dependents. You can claim child dependents if:
- The child is under 18 at the beginning date of the benefit year, or if the child is 18 or older and unable to work because of a permanent mental or physical disability.
- You have paid more than half the cost of the child’s support for the 90-day period before the beginning date of your benefit year (or for the length of the parental relationship, if less than 90 days).
You may claim your spouse if:
- You have been married 90-days prior to filing the initial claim
- You live together
- Your spouse makes no more than 25% of your average weekly wage
- You provided at least 50% of their support
Once you have determined your number of dependents, you can classify them. This will determine your final WBA (not counting any other deductions, like taxes). Class A is with zero dependents, one to two dependents is class B, 3 or more is class C.
Maximum Benefit Payments
In Ohio, the legislature determines the maximum benefit amount each year anew. For those who file in 2016-17, the maximum you can receive with class C for dependents is $598. For class B dependents, the maximum is $537, and the max with no dependents is $443.
You can receive benefits for up to 26 weeks depending on the number of qualifying weeks in your base period. Even if you have more than 26 weeks, you can’t receive more.
Extended Benefit Payments
When the unemployment rate is high, the state and/or federal government may provide for additional time for more benefit weeks.
How to Apply for Benefits in OH
You can file for benefits either online or by telephone. The online system is available 24 hours a day unless the system is down for maintenance. The phone system is only available during normal business hours Monday through Friday.
Telephone: 1-877-OHIO-JOB (877-644-6562)
Whether you file online or by telephone you will need to provide the following information:
- Your Social Security number
- Your driver’s license or state ID number
- Your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address
- Name, address, telephone number, and dates of employment with each employer you worked for during the past 6 weeks
- The reason you became unemployed from each employer
- Dependents’ names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth
- If claiming dependents, your spouse’s name, Social Security number, and birth date
- If you are not a U.S. citizen or national, alien registration number and expiration date
- Your regular occupation and job skills
Former military and federal employees will need to complete and provide the appropriate separation forms.
Weekly Certification and Maintaining Eligibility
Once the ODJFS approves your benefit claim, you will need to maintain your eligibility status while you receive benefits. The state monitors your eligibility by requiring benefit recipients to file weekly or biweekly claims, known as certifying a claim.
In Ohio, you file a weekly claim for the first three benefit weeks. If you choose to receive information and correspondence from the ODJFS electronically, you can continue to file a weekly claim. If you choose to receive the same information by postal mail, you must file a biweekly claim.
You can certify in the same manner in which you filed your initial claim, either online or by calling OHIO JOB.
You will have to answer questions regarding your status when you file. The ODJFS will inquire whether you are:
- Making a good faith effort to find work
- Able and available to work
- You have started or quit a job during the benefit week
- You have earned any wages or income during the week
- You refused an offer of suitable employment
If you have earned wages, you will have to report the amount you earned for the week you worked to earn the pay, not when you received payment. If you work full-time during a benefit week or earn more than your WBA, you will not receive a benefit payment for that week.
Back to Class
Generally, leaving work to attend school full-time is disqualifying. The state will consider you to be unavailable for work. However, if you were working while attending school and became unemployed during that time, the ODJFS may consider you eligible. You will still have to look for work and accept suitable employment offers.
If you enroll in an ODJFS-approved training program, the department may consider you to be eligible for benefits. Contact a job center for further information on training programs.
Part-time Work and Receiving Benefits
You may file a claim for benefits if you are partially unemployed and otherwise eligible. You may also earn part-time wages while receiving benefits on a prior claim. You must report the wages you earn, as the state will deduct money from your WBA based on how much you earn during a benefit week.
Ohio will let you keep 20% of your earnings without penalty. It will deduct the remainder dollar-for-dollar from your WBA. If your WBA is $400 and you earn $200, the state will deduct $120 from your WBA. Your WBA for that week would be $280, and you keep your $200.
The ODJFS may reduce your WBA for other reasons. You may ask the state to take a tax deduction, you may owe child support payments or other penalties that the state will attach to your benefit payments.
Some income, like holiday pay or severance pay may further reduce benefit payments. If you receive a pension from your base period employer, the state will deduct the pension from your benefits.
The state may not deduct some types income you receive, like Social Security or National Guard reservist pay. You can read the ODJFS unemployment benefit guide for more information or contact a claims center representative.
Work Search Requirement
You will receive specific information when you receive a New Claim Instruction Sheet. This may inform you that you will have to apply to two jobs per week from two separate employers. You may have other requirements as well.
You will have to have registered with Ohio Means Jobs when you file your initial claim. You will also have to upload a resume to the site and keep it updated as a part of your ongoing job search requirements.
Your requirement may change during the weeks you are receiving benefits. The changes may include a change in your definition of suitable employment. You may be required to accept offers of employment for jobs that pay less than you made previously or in jobs in which you have no experience but you’re qualified to perform the duties.
You should keep a good record of your job search activities, especially the personal contacts you make. The state may ask for proof of your searches and applications at any time. Make note of the date you applied for work and any person you contacted directly.
Failure to make a good faith effort to find work may result in a denial of benefits. You would have to reopen your claim at a later date.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
If you fail to earn enough in your base period or you didn’t work enough weeks during the base period, you will not be eligible to receive benefits. The ODJFS will mail you an official notice showing the determination of wages during the base period.
If you meet the wage requirement, the state will inquire about the reasons for separation from work. If you quit for a cause unrelated to work or personal reasons, the state will deny benefits. If your employer dismissed you for “misconduct,” the state will deny benefits.
Examples of disqualifying reasons to quit are generally easy to figure. If you just “got tired” of the job and quit, that’s a personal reason. If you quit because you couldn’t get afterschool care for a school-age child, that’s a reason unrelated to work, even though finding child care may be a “good cause” for you. The legal standard is a “good cause connected to the work.”
The “misconduct” standard is defined as some action or inaction showing a disregard for your employer’s interests. Repeated violations of a rule after receiving repeated warnings from your boss is a clear example of misconduct connected to work. Even a one-time violation may fit the definition of misconduct.
Quit and Still Eligible
Your employer may have done something or failed to do something to cause you to quit. The event or events had to leave you with virtually no other choice. You also have to have made a good faith effort to keep your job, like trying to work out a solution to the problem with your employer.
- Your employer forced you to work in unsafe conditions
- You were subject to harassment your employer knew about but failed to address it
- Your employer reduced your pay significantly
- The business moved too far to make it reasonable for you to continue working
There are some exceptions to having to show good cause connected to the work. If you were forced to leave home because of a domestic violence concern, the state might not consider quitting to be voluntary.
Fired and Still Eligible
Certain actions that your employer considers good cause to dismiss you may not be “misconduct.” A one-time, minor violation of a policy may not be misconduct. Being late to work for reasons beyond your control may not be misconduct, even though that late arrival caused your employer to dismiss you.
Other Denial Issues
The ODJFS may deny benefits for reasons outside wage requirements or separation issues. The possibilities include, but aren’t limited to:
- Failing to perform a job search
- Refusing a reasonable job offer
- Failing to respond to an ODJFS request
What Happens When the State Denies Your Claim
You have the right to appeal any decision by the ODJFS. If you receive notification you’ve failed to meet wage requirements, or you believe the financial determination is in error, you may request a redetermination. You have 21-days from the mailing date of the determination to file your request. The department may change the decision or allow it to stand. They may also refer the issue to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission. You must file in writing, and include the reasons for your request along with supporting documents.
You can appeal the redetermination to the UCRC, where your issue will receive a full hearing. You have 21-days from the mailing date of the redetermination to file this appeal. You may file the appeal online.
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director
Bureau of Unemployment Compensation Benefits
P.O. Box 182863
Columbus, OH 43218-2863
If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Ohio.
Here are some helpful resources for Ohio Unemployment:
Ohio Unemployment Benefits Website
About Unemployment Benefits Extensions
Ohio State University on Unemployment
Guide to filing online