COLUMBUS — Ohioans counting on the extra $300 a week in pandemic unemployment benefits will no longer be able to do so come June 26.
During a Thursday briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine announced now that all Ohioans have the opportunity to get vaccinated, the state is ending its participation in the U.S. Department of Labor's Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program in six weeks.
"This couldn't go on forever," he said about the payment. "As I travel the state, employers tell me all the time that their businesses are coming back. They also tell me that they're having a very serious time finding employees."
DeWine said he hasn't only heard this concern from retailers and restaurants. Manufacturers and commercial industries also need workers.
The Ohio Manufacturers' Association quickly voiced support for the decision.
"These benefits are playing a major role in preventing Ohio’s factories from operating at full capacity," the association wrote in a release. "While these additional benefits served their purpose at the height of the pandemic, announcing their conclusion is the right thing to do to protect Ohio’s economy.”
Employees who are back to work are having to work long hours, DeWine said. His administration blames unemployed Ohioans who have not yet returned to work.
"The federal assistance, that extra $300 a week in federal pandemic unemployment compensation, is in some cases certainly discouraging people from going back at this point in time," DeWine said.
But information Lt. Gov. Jon Husted gave about the state economy contradicts that argument.
Prior to the pandemic, Ohio had an unemployment level of 4 percent. Fourteen months after the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, that number has fallen to 4.7 percent — nearly pre-pandemic levels.
In response to the news, non-profit policy research institute Policy Matters Ohio issued a news release, arguing Ohioans' job prospects aren't as rosy as the DeWine administration depicts.
Ohio still has nearly 300,000 fewer jobs than it did in February 2020, the organization wrote.
“The best way for employers to attract new workers is to pay a good wage and offer decent benefits," the release read. "The public policy response to boosting labor force participation should not be to make people so poor and so desperate that they’ll accept any job, even if it pays so little that they’re living in poverty, or putting their safety at risk."
Cutting this "lifeline" will disproportionately affect women, especially women of color, as the school year ends and many continue to find child care unavailable, the release said.
“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," Policy Matters Ohio wrote.
• According to the latest figures Thursday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 1,088,343 confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus. There have been 21,701 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County; 16,120 in Trumbull County; and 8,842 in Columbiana County.
• Statewide, the new adjusted COVID-19 death total is 19,441, including 588 in Mahoning County; 468 in Trumbull; and 229 in Columbiana. Mahoning County’s 588 reported COVID-19 deaths was eighth among Ohio’s 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 2,120. [DEATH DATA WAS NOT UPDATED THURSDAY.]
• In nearby counties: Stark, 32,504 cases and 907 deaths; Portage, 12,916 cases and 203 deaths; and Ashtabula, 6,861 cases and 170 deaths. [DEATH DATA WAS NOT UPDATED THURSDAY.]
• Trumbull County Combined Health District will host COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the Eastwood Mall. The clinics will be located in the former Lane Bryant space near Center Court, next to Pandora on Tuesday and Thursday. You can register in advance at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov or walk in. For more information go to tcchd.org.
• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Thursday, there were 1,181,279 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 26,697 deaths. There have been 9,381 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 255 deaths; 7,412 cases in Lawrence County and 207 deaths. In Mercer County, 35,642 people have been completely vaccinated; in Lawrence County, 25,730 have been completely vaccinated.
• Indoor and outdoor gathering capacities will rise to 50 percent and 75 percent, respectively, on Monday, says Gov. Tom Wolf. The decision comes after lawmakers and business groups urged the governor to lift all COVID-19 orders ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Nearly 46 percent of residents are fully immunized, according to the Department of Health.
• Regal on Thursday announced its Regal Boulevard Centre movie theater in the Eastwood Mall Complex in Niles will reopen Friday. The Lionsgate film “Spiral” will headline the theater’s marquee, which also includes “Wrath of Man” and “Those Who Wish Me Dead.”