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"Soft Launch" Of Pre-Registration For Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Underway

A "closed" sign is posted on a closed duckpin bowling alley and bar in downtown Columbus.
Karen Kasler
A "closed" sign is posted on a closed duckpin bowling alley and bar in downtown Columbus.

Ohio’s self-employed, independent contractors and part time workers who haven’t qualified for unemployment benefits can now start pre-registering for pandemic unemployment assistance, though they won’t see money for a few weeks.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kimberly Hall estimated 150,000 people might qualify for these benefits. As of Friday afternoon, 1500 had pre-registered at unemployment.ohio.gov.

“It’s called a ‘soft launch’ so it’s not widely available to every person who comes onto the website. We don’t want to overwhelm the system," Hall said.

The system has been overloaded for weeks as nearly a million people have filed for jobless benefits since coronavirus shutdowns took effect last month.

Hall said more capacity to the site will be added in the next few days. But the system to pay them benefits, along with $600 weekly as authorized by the federal CARES Act, won’t be ready till mid-May

Hall said the state has started paying those $600 checks to those who qualified for traditional unemployment. So far, $979 million in regular and pandemic unemployment assistance has been paid to nearly 400,000 Ohioans.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.
Karen Kasler
Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.