PROVIDING ESSENTIAL RESOURCES TO FAMILIES
01 JUL 2020

Posted by robbie Categories: BLOG Comments: Post closed for comments

Employment Recovery Assistance for Individuals and Employers – Access to Food and Safe Effective Child Care –

The past 13 weeks have been challenging for all Ohioans, including the business community. As Ohio’s opportunity agency, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has worked tirelessly to support employers, workers, families and children hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19.

  • Ohio received an 8.5 million federal Employment Recovery National Dislocated Worker Grant to help re-employ Ohioans who lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19 to help employers rebuild their workforces.
  • The agency will distribute the funding to Ohio’s workforce areas and work in partnership with them to provide outreach to employers and services to individual who were laid off permanently or temporarily as a result of the pandemic.

Allowable services will included:

  • paid work experience
  • on-the-job training
  • customized training
  • skills upgrading and supportive services
  • personal protective equipment and other supplies needed to ensure the health and safety of participants.

Individuals can visit OhioMeansJobs.com or their local OhioMeansJobs center to:

  • find and apply for job openings
  • take skill and career interest assessments
  • create or improve their resumes
  • practice interviewing

Employers can call or visit their nearest OhioMeansJobs center to:

  • get help finding skilled candidates for jobs
  • screening resumes
  • learn about federally funded tax credits or training program and more

Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program

The TAA program provides benefits and support to workers who become unemployed or risk job loss due to impacts of foreign trade. Our Trade Delivery Team has developed and implemented an electronic assessment to gather critical information about Ohioans’ knowledge, skills and abilities before determining their options for returning to employment under the TAA. Previously, this one-on-one assessment was conducted in person or by phone. Now, as soon as the ODJFS Office of Workforce Development receives a list from an employer of workers certified under TAA, staff can email the assessment to everyone on the list, along with a brief letter of introduction. Within 72 hours of people completing the assessment, trade staff will schedule a follow-up call.

Implementing the SharedWork Ohio Program

  • As you may know, SharedWork Ohio is a voluntary layoff aversion program. It allows workers to remain employed and employers to retain trained staff during times of reduced business activity.
  • Under the SharedWork Ohio program, participating employers reduce affected employees’ hours by a uniform percentage.
  • The participating employees work the reduced hours, and ODJFS provides them with a proportionate unemployment benefit.

Since March 15, nearly 40,000 Ohioans have participated in SharedWork Ohio as part of almost 1,400 plans. An additional 185 plans are pending with more than 5,000 potential participants.

Helping employees return to work

  • Returning to work during the pandemic is a delicate balance of gradually reopening the economy while providing safe working environments.
  • ODJFS is required by law to ensure that unemployment benefits are issued in accordance with established eligibility requirements. We must investigate claims involving individuals who quit work without good cause and/or who refuse offers of work without good cause.
  • We first encourage employers to engage in dialogue with an employee who expresses reluctance to return to work about the measures that employers are taking to help employees feel safe.
  • It’s our expectation that, in most situations, employers and employees will be able to work together to ensure a safe environment for employees to return to work.
  • The ODJFS process for determining whether to deny unemployment benefits for a refusal to return to work existed prior to the pandemic. The analysis centers on whether good cause exists for refusing an offer of suitable work. That determination involves multiple factors: prior training and work experience, wages and benefits, travel distance, shift and hours, health and physical fitness, and health and safety.On June 16, the governor signed an executive order that establishes additional criteria for evaluating whether good cause exists for refusing an offer of suitable work. As a part of the process, facts will be sought from both the employer and employee, and each party will have an opportunity to appeal the decision to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission.

PROVIDING ESSENTIAL RESOURCES TO FAMILIES

Just as the need for unemployment benefits has skyrocketed, the economic challenges we now face have greatly impacted Ohio families. ODJFS is responsible for managing a number of programs that directly impact the lives of Ohio’s families and children. These include:

  • foster care and adoption
  • child care
  • job training and employment services
  • food assistance
  • cash assistance
  • adult protective services and child support.

Ensuring safe, effective child care

Helping Ohioans return to work means helping them feel confident that their children are safe and well cared for during the day. Gov. DeWine made it a priority to ensure that professionals who were essential to protecting the public were able to access quality child care while hard at work protecting and caring for Ohioans.

  • From March through May, ODJFS licensed more than 2,400 pandemic child care programs serving more than 24,000 children of essential workers.
  • In anticipation of child care programs reopening on May 31, ODJFS created two Post-Pandemic Provider Workgroups and developed a webinar training so providers could be informed of federal health and safety recommendations.
  • Ohio is using more than $60 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to provide reopening grants to all of Ohio’s child care providers, including family child care, child care centers, and both publicly funded and private providers.
  • We also posted a new resource on our website for families, titled “What Parents Should Know About Sending Children Back to Child Care.”
  • In addition, Ohio will fund a research project to study best practices for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in child care settings. Information gathered from the study will continue to inform child care regulations moving forward.

Increasing access to food

ODJFS received federal approval to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which is allowing us to provide $254.5 million in food assistance to approximately 850,000 Ohio children who receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program.  In addition:

  • We received federal approval to allow Ohioans who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their Ohio Direction cards to purchase food online through Walmart and Amazon and have groceries delivered, if they choose.
  • Many other stores – including Giant Eagle and many Kroger stores – allow SNAP recipients to order groceries online and pay in the stores or at curbside.
  • Four times in response to federal action during the pandemic, we have issued mass payments totaling approximately $80 million to as many as 480,000 SNAP-eligible households.
  • We established streamlined processes that enable safe distancing and prepackaged food for pick up at the local food banks.

Serving children at risk

  • Teachers are mandatory child abuse and neglect reporters. ODJFS and the Ohio Department of Education provided awareness resources for teachers to utilize during remote learning.
  • ODJFS is implementing Gov. DeWine’s executive order to continue supporting young people emancipating from foster care who are not ready to transition because of the pandemic.
  • The order also allows public children services agencies to work with residential agencies to establish temporary residential facilities for children in areas with capacity needs specific to the pandemic.

STABILIZING UNEMPLOYED OHIOANS

Much of our work has focused on ensuring that Ohioans who qualify for unemployment benefits receive them. The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 13 weeks stands at more than 1.3 million, an amount that exceeds the combined total from the last three years.

  • To date, we have paid more than $4.4 billion in unemployment compensation to more than 710,000 Ohioans related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the rate of unemployment filings is slowing, we continue to deploy aggressive strategies to serve the historic numbers of Ohioans who are temporarily out of work.
  • We have enlisted the support of some of the best in the business through our relationships with Amazon Web Services, IBM, Deloitte Consulting, CBTS, Direct Interactions and Robert Half. We vastly expanded our IT capabilities, call center staff and claims specialists, and today more than 94% of all claims filed have been processed. Our focus now is on the fewer than 6% of claims that remain pending.
  • ODJFS’ Rapid Response team developed a toolkit to help employers, unemployed workers and workforce partners navigate resources available to them during the pandemic. The toolkit explains how to file for unemployment benefits, what the law requires regarding WARN notices, and information about Trade Adjustment Assistance, SharedWork Ohio and other programs.

Delivering new federal programs

  • One of three new federal programs under the CARES Act was Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). T
  • This program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to individuals who have been partially or totally unemployed due to COVID-19, including many who historically have not qualified for unemployment benefits, such as self-employed workers, 1099 tax filers and those who lack sufficient work history.
  • To administer the PUA program, ODJFS engaged Deloitte Consulting to develop and launch a new system in a record four weeks. So far, we have paid more than $2.7 billion to more than 320,000 PUA claimants.
  • The CARES Act also authorized a new program for the distribution of $600 weekly payments, in addition to unemployment benefit

THE ROAD TO OHIO’S RECOVERY

ODJFS has played a central role in supporting Ohioans during one of the most difficult periods in our history, and we will continue to support employers, employees and families as our state’s economy strengthens.

Thank you for partnering with us to ensure that Ohioans receive the help they need during this time. We look forward to working in tandem with you, our business partners. Rest assured, our team will do everything possible to serve the pressing needs of Ohio businesses as they restart their operations.

With gratitude,

Kimberly Hall
Director, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services