COLUMBUS, Ohio—Labor leaders and advocates say a bill intended to stabilize the state’s unemployment-compensation fund would do it by cutting benefits for
workers who’ve lost jobs. “House Bill 382 attempts to achieve solvency primarily through reducing benefits for laid-off workers,” Graham Bowman, an attorney with the Ohio Poverty Law Center, told a state House committee hearing Jan. 10. The bill would freeze benefits for 10 years, cut the maximum time people can collect them from 26 weeks to 24, raise the amount of wages employers have to pay taxes on by about 16%, and charge workers 10% of the taxes their employer pays. The state’s unemployment-compensation fund is projected to go broke in 2021 even if there isn’t a recession before then, and during the Great Recession, it failed to repay a $3.4 billion federal loan on time. But those problems, Ohio AFL-CIO President Timothy W. Burga told the committee, are “due to a lack of revenue and not because of atypical benefit costs.” The taxes employers pay into the fund, he said, “have been lower than the national average for 19 of the last 21 years,” and last year were less than 75% of the national per-employee average.