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Published: Friday, 8/31/2012

Lower rate of jobless in Ohio to cut length of aid

Compensation to fall from 73 to 63 weeks

BY CATHERINE CANDISKY
COLUMBUS DISPATCH

COLUMBUS -- Falling unemployment in Ohio has triggered a second reduction in the number of weeks that jobless workers can collect benefits.

Starting in September, the maximum weeks of unemployment compensation will drop to 63. Currently, jobless workers can receive up to 73 weeks of benefits. Before April, it was 99 weeks.

With Ohio's unemployment rate at 7.2 percent in July, the state no longer qualifies for as many weeks of emergency unemployment benefits, which Congress authorized to help workers weather the recession.

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, about 138,000 workers are collecting unemployment benefits. The agency won't have estimates until next week on how many will exhaust benefits in September.

On average, workers receive $300 a week.

"The program was designed to phase out as the state's unemployment rate came down. We're at a situation in Ohio where the total length of benefits has been shrinking since spring," said Benjamin Johnson, spokesman for the Department of Job and Family Services.

The maximum number of weeks was set to drop if Ohio's unemployment rate remained below 9 percent through the summer. And regardless of how many people remain jobless, the entire emergency federal-benefits program is scheduled to end Dec. 29.

After that, unemployed workers will be eligible for up to 26 weeks of traditional state benefits.

Congress created emergency unemployment compensation for those who had exhausted their state benefits.

Mr. Johnson noted workers still will be eligible for job-search help and might qualify for other public assistance, including food stamps, health-insurance coverage, and cash assistance.



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