Unlike last the recession, Ohio leaders can meet the moment with bold and inclusive policies

Good policies can protect workers during pandemic


More than a decade later, 114,000 more Ohioans live in poverty compared to before the Great Recession of 2008. Now Ohioans, like the rest of the country, are not only living through a public health crisis, but also a recession. A new Policy Matters Ohio report offers a roadmap for state policymakers to ensure Ohio emerges stronger and more prosperous for everyone, no matter where they live or what they look like. 

“Government action is how we all come together to tackle big challenges,” said report author, Senior Project Director Wendy Patton. “In the 1930s, President Roosevelt’s New Deal helped Americans get back to work and buy homes. During the Great Recession, the federal stimulus supported state and local governments and federal loans saved thousands of jobs in the auto industry. In both cases, lawmakers made some policy choices that left people out: The New Deal excluded Black and Brown Americans from certain programs and the federal stimulus ended too soon, before recovery reached many small towns and rural areas. This time, our leaders can make different choices that will benefit everyone.”

To get through the recession, Ohio’s leaders must push the federal government for more flexible aid for state and local governments and increased funding for Medicaid that lasts through the pandemic and until unemployment subsides to pre-recession levels. State lawmakers must maintain or expand aid for programs that help people get enough to eat, make ends meet, and stay home if they get sick or to care for their loved ones, Patton said. Black and Brown Ohioans, who suffered most during the last recession, should receive targeted state support. 

“As we slowly pulled out of the last recession, Ohio’s lawmakers cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations and slashed the budget for schools, human services and aid to local governments,” Patton said. “One clear bright spot was Gov. Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid, which supported thousands of jobs and extended health care to thousands of Ohioans.” 

Federal lawmakers must expand and extend aid to state and local governments to ensure health care during the pandemic, keep public services intact and help struggling families. State lawmakers must ensure needs are met as well and can generate new revenue to do so by:

  • Using the $2.7 billion rainy day fund to close the state’s budget gap. 
  • Rebalancing Ohio’s upside-down tax system that favors the wealthy and starves schools, public transit and more.
  • Tapping unconventional resources like the privatized economic development agency JobsOhio to help close budget shortfalls and put people to work by creating job corps.

“During the last recession, state and federal leaders didn’t do enough for people who were hit the hardest,” Patton said. “This time they can do better.”

Jobless claims still climbing, but fewer last week

Unemployment, jobless rate in Ohio, Cleveland, coronavirus, updates, news

Courtesy of Policy Matters Ohio

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) today reported that Ohioans filed 109,369 initial jobless claims for the week ended April 18, down from 226,007 the prior week. Total new claims for the last five weeks approached 1 million, with 964,566 filings. Together these claims exceed all jobless claims filed for the prior two years by 249,054. ODJFS has distributed initial payments to 376,000 claimants thus far. Policy Matters Ohio Researcher Michael Shields released the following statement:

“Flattening the curve of COVID-19 means Ohioans need to stay home from work until our health departments get the tests they need to prevent a surge of infections once businesses reopen. That means ODJFS must work quickly to get unemployment compensation (UC) to those who need it. Ohio is falling behind other states in allowing many workers who haven’t previously qualified for benefits to receive them.

“ODJFS said it will begin processing newly eligible claimants by mid-May. For folks who have been out of work since March, that’s a long time to wait. It’s understandable that getting a new claims system up and running takes time. It is not reasonable that many now waiting for federal help were excluded from state benefits they should have been eligible for in the first place.

Ohio law excludes workers paid less than $269 per week on average – like many of the restaurant workers sent home by Gov. DeWine on March 15 – from state UC benefits. Ohio law completely excludes drivers employed by ride-hailing companies such as Uber. ODJFS needs to get benefits to these workers as quickly as possible, and Ohio policymakers must change eligibility rules so they will be eligible for UC going forward.

“Alleviating hardship for workers displaced by this crisis is critical, and getting it right is the way to prevent a short-term disruption from becoming a protracted recession. Forcing Ohioans back to work before our health departments have the testing they need to isolate coronavirus cases would endanger lives. Instead Ohio’s leaders in government need to make sure people can cover the rent and groceries while their earnings are on hold. Maintaining their consumer spending is going to be vital to keeping businesses afloat and preventing long-term job loss.

“Too many Ohioans never recovered from the last recession. In the recovery from this crisis, Ohio can rebuild our economy in a way that strengthens everyone. This time we’ve got to get it right.”