COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio think tank says unless Congress acts, a grim holiday season awaits hundreds of thousands of Ohioans.
According to an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio, without federal action 300,000 people could lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. Policy Director Zach Schiller said new federal supports that have cushioned the economic blow of the pandemic should be extended.
"We have a really, really concerning situation with thousands and thousands of families desperately trying to scrape by," Schiller said. "It's the absolute worst time for Congress to pull the rug out. This help is desperately needed, it would be crazy to not have a further bridge."
Schiller said many analysts believe the additional unemployment benefits and the $600 federal weekly supplement that expired in July have kept the economy going. The U.S. House is expected to vote Wednesday on a one-week continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown, which also would provide additional time for negotiations on another COVID relief bill.
Unemployment in Ohio fell to 5.6% in October, from more than 8% in September. However, Schiller explained the labor market remains weak and its pace of improvement is slowing. He contended there is a real danger the economy is going to slow down further as COVID continues to spread, impacting people's livelihoods.
"That many folks having to pull in their horns because they don't have the financial resources, that's going to mean more restaurants shutting down, more small businesses in general that aren't seeing the business they otherwise would. And it ripples throughout the entire economy," he said.
Supports that will soon expire are Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, which covers people who don't traditionally qualify for unemployment; an additional 13 weeks of regular unemployment benefits; and Extended Benefits that adds 13 or more weeks in benefits when unemployment is high.