ODJFS updates on programs during pandemic

Staff report

Over the past six weeks, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has launched several new programs and expansions.

From March 15 through May 5, ODJFS has paid more than $1.8 billion in unemployment benefits to more than 526,000 Ohioans – an amount greater in six weeks than at any time since the Great Recession. Nearly one million claims have been processed. Nearly 85% of claims have been resolved; fewer than 15% are pending.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorized a new program for the distribution of $600 weekly payments, in addition to unemployment benefits. As of May 5, ODJFS had issued more than $1 billion in supplemental payments. The payments will be issued separately from regular unemployment payments, each week through July 25. The first payment will include retroactive amounts from March 29 through the present.

After an accelerated production initiative, ODJFS launched pre-registration for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. This new tool allows individuals to get in line early and pre-register their account, so that as soon as the system is ready to process claims, they can log in and complete their paperwork. More than 80,000 Ohioans pre-registered in the first three days after launch.

In an effort to further streamline claims processing and expedite payments, ODJFS announced a new weekly claim filing process for those approved to receive unemployment benefits. Ohioans filing weekly claims are requested do so on a specific day of the week based upon the first letter of their last name.

The Rapid Response team developed a tool kit to help employers, unemployed workers, and workforce partners navigate resources available to them during the pandemic. The tool kit 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.

In addition, the workforce team created coronavirus.ohio.gov/jobsearch. Ohioans can click on “Find Jobs Near Me” to be taken to postings for essential jobs that employers need filled now. To date, nearly 500 companies have posted nearly 40,000 openings.

Pending federal approval, ODJFS is poised to provide approximately $200 million in food benefits through the federal Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer program to more than 700,000 children who receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. Giant Eagle, Walmart, and many Kroger stores now allow SNAP recipients to order groceries online and, if the stores have mobile point-of-sale devices, pay at curbside pickup locations.

Since March, ODJFS has issued more than $160 million in supportive payments to households receiving SNAP benefits. In April, more than 480,000 families received more than $82 million in supplemental benefits. ODJFS is preparing the next round of mass supplements for May and expects to issue them on May 22.

•ODJFS extended SNAP reauthorization periods to fall of 2020. This six-month extension alleviates the administrative burden on local agencies and clients.•ODJFS established streamlined processes that enable safe distancing and prepackaged food for pickup at the local food banks.

ODJFS and the Ohio Department of Education provided awareness resources for teachers to utilize during remote learning. ODJFS is implementing Governor Mike 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 will allow 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.

Step Up To Quality state law originally required all child care programs receiving state funding to participate in the five-star Step Up To Quality rating system by July 1. Recent legislation postponed that date to Sept. 1. As of March, 91% of programs authorized to provide publicly funded child care were participating in the Step Up To Quality program.

In March, ODJFS began licensing pandemic child care centers that meet basic health and safety standards. More than 2,200 programs are serving more than 24,000 children. Financial assistance for pandemic programs is available for families in the Publicly Funded Child Care program. House Bill 197 continues payments to publicly funded providers that closed during the emergency.

Some pandemic centers are existing child care programs; others are new child care centers created in response to community needs. Licenses can be issued to child care centers, family child care homes, and in-home aides.

Approved providers are listed at jfs.ohio.gov/cdc, under the “Family Pandemic Child Care Information” button.

Staff report