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Can Ohio Get Unemployment Working?

This April 22, 2014, file photo shows an employment application form on a table during a job fair at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y.
Mike Groll
/
Associated Press

In this week's episode of Snollygoster, Ohio's politics podcast from WOSU, hosts Mike Thompson and Steve Brown discuss the fraud and disarray in the state's unemployment system. State Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo), a member of the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council, joins the show.

Listen to Snollygoster on the WOSU Public Media mobile app, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And make sure to leave a rating and review!

In this week's episode: 

It's A Mess

Late last year, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services – which runs the state's unemployment system – estimated that more than half of the 1.5 million claims filed from May-December were flagged as potentially fraudulent. The payments total hundreds of millions of dollars.

The crooks have a sense of humor, too. Fraudulent claims were filed under the names of Gov. Mike DeWine and his wife Fran.

In addition to the fraud, people who needed unemployment and were entitled to it had to wait for hours to file. Then they waited weeks and weeks to get a check. Some people were mistakenly overpaid, and months later were told they owed hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Because of fraudulent claims, some people who were recently laid off were told they were ineligible, because someone had stolen their identity and filed a claim for them months ago.

The state has tried to fix the situation. Early on, it hired many new workers to keep up with the tsunami of claims, and now it is enlisting private industry to help fight the fraud.

The Ohio General Assembly created the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council months ago, but the group has barely started its work.

Snollygoster Of The Week: Tom Renz

Tom Renz is an attorney for Ohio Stands Up, a group that opposes DeWine’s health orders. He testified before a legislative committee to urge them to limit the governor’s power. His testimony was packed with debunked COVID-19 conspiracy theories.

When an anti-vaccine group called Ohio Advocates for Medical Freedom uploaded a portion Renz’s testimony to YouTube, the company found it so misleading and filled with misinformation that it took it down for violating its community guidelines.

Send questions and comments to snollygoster@wosu.org.

Mike Thompson spends much of his time correcting people who mispronounce the name of his hometown – Worcester, Massachusetts. Mike studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University when he was not running in circles – as a distance runner on the SU track team.
Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and son. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.