There is a new effort to reform Ohio's unemployment compensation system to become more inclusive of low-paid workers.
Currently, a person paid minimum wage can work 31 hours a week and never qualify for benefits, because the earnings threshold for unemployment compensation is $298 a week over at least 20 weeks of work.
Michael Shields, researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, explains the cap is shutting out roughly 750,000 workers who are less likely to have the savings needed to weather a period of unemployment.
"Unemployment (compensation) is designed in part to help people to navigate a time of unemployment," Shields explained. "So that they can find a new job that's a really good match for their skill set, and it's going to help cover basic needs for their families."
Under Senate Bill 355, which was introduced last week, an Ohio worker would need to work 20 weeks and earn $1,500 in the year, including $1,000 dollars in one quarter to qualify.
Shields explained Ohio's earnings test for unemployment benefits is more stringent than all but three other states, and he noted it is inequitable.
"Since women are paid less than men, women actually have to work two and a half hours more per week to ever qualify for benefits than their male counterparts," Shields pointed out. "Likewise, Black working Ohioans would have to work four hours more per week than their typically white counterpart to ever be qualifying for unemployment benefits if they were to lose their job."
He added research found 460,000 Ohioans who are currently not eligible for benefits would qualify under the bill.