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Unemployment benefits await approval

Melissa Topey • Dec 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

In just 17 days, thousands of Ohioans will lose their unemployment benefits unless senators approve a bill that would extend them for another year.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and 31 other senators are urging legislators to approve the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2013, which would extend payments through Jan. 1, 2015.

About 128,000 Ohioans and 1.3 million Americans stand to lose their benefits on Dec. 28.

Unemployment benefits

• 790,000: Ohioans receiving unemployment benefits from 2008-13.

• $318: Average weekly unemployment benefit in Ohio.

• $413: Maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Ohio.

Source: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio

“We must do everything we can to support those who are still struggling following the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Brown said. “These are hardworking Americans, many with children, who have fallen on tough times. If we don’t extend emergency unemployment insurance, more than 128,000 Ohioans would lose their benefits and the ability to supporttheir families”

The job market has turned around for many people, said Stephanie Kowal, director of Ottawa County Job and Family Services, and for those who remain unemployed, their skill sets may simply not match what employers are looking for.

“It would be nice for them to have financial security while they get a new skill set” Kowal said.

Whatever elected leaders decide, Kowal hopes the decision comes soon.

“I hope whatever they do is timely enough for people to do something” she said. “This happened before and it was confusing for people. It led to people wondering, ‘Do I have benefits? What do I do?’”

Karen Balconi Ghezzi, director of Erie County Job and Family Services, wonders if the extension is even necessary, given that some local businesses have jobs that are not being filled.

She pointed to a job ad her agency posted, advertising for a telephone operator. Her agency received 104 applications for the job, ultimately trimming it down to five finalists.

“You would think when you get called for a second interview you would return the call,” Balconi Ghezzi said. “I’ve seen this before. We called back five people and three did not call back.

“I’m not in favor of seeing the unemployment benefits extended” she said. “If there’s a real impediment to finding a job, we can see that we take steps toward getting that impediment fixed. It should not become some kind of entitlement, and I am afraid that is what it may become”

Figures from the U.S. Labor Department said in October there were 3.93 million job openings.

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