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Head of business group suggests bonuses, required training for jobless Ohioans

Ohio returned $1.5 billion in federal COVID relief money to repay what it borrowed to keep paying unemployment benefits during the pandemic. But there’s still no solution to shoring up the state’s unemployment compensation fund, which has gone broke twice since 2009. The head of the group representing many of Ohio’s businesses says he has a plan.

Unemployed Ohioans can get 26 weeks of jobless benefits, but Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers would like to see them handled differently.

“If you get a job before, say, twelve weeks, we should pay you a bonus because there are costs associated with going back to work and we should get people have people have incentive to get a job as soon as they can. That bonus would do that," Stivers said.

And for those without jobs after 12 weeks, Stivers said, "you should be required to be in a job training program to keep getting your unemployment check because let’s acknowledge that at three months unemployed, when there's more jobs available than unemployed people today, you must not have the skills you need to be employed in today's workforce.”

Stivers, the Republican former Congressman from the 15th District in central Ohio who left that job earlier this year, said he’ll be working with lawmakers on legislation on this.

The state overpaid $3.4 billion in non-fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic. It also paid out $478 million in fraudulent claims in both traditional unemployment and the federally-funded pandemic unemployment assistance program, for workers who didn't qualify for the other program.

But the discussion about how to shore up the unemployment compensation fund has gone on for the better part of two decades. Multiple bills have been proposed, but all have failed. Unions have typically pushed back on cuts in benefits, which they say are too low anyway, while business groups have balked at increased taxes.

Copyright 2021 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.