Ohio Governor Michael DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted recently announced that the state has expanded unemployment compensation benefits to workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19. By way of background, Ohio’s unemployment insurance system provides 50 percent of a qualifying worker’s former average weekly pay, subject to caps based on the number of dependents in the household.

Governor DeWine has issued an executive order that expands unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. Moreover, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has published a series of questions and answers related to the order. Here are the highlights:

Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?

Ohio has expanded the list of individuals eligible for unemployment benefits to include individuals who are requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19, even if they are not actually diagnosed with COVID-19. Additionally, employees who are currently under mandatory quarantine due to suspicion of having COVID-19 are eligible for unemployment benefits. The executive order confirms that individuals who are quarantined are not required to actively seek work during the period of emergency to be eligible for benefits.

According to ODJFS, if an employer lays off employees due to the loss of production caused by COVID-19, employees who are otherwise eligible to receive unemployment benefits will be eligible for benefits upon layoff.

Waiting period and penalties waived

For employees, the one-week waiting period – that is typical before an individual can receive unemployment benefits – has been waived. For employers, the penalties for late reporting and payments have been waived as well.

Will an employer’s taxes increase?

The expanded protections lead to the next question: will an employer’s unemployment taxes increase if an employee receives benefits as a result of a COVID-19 shutdown? ODJFS states that for contributory employers – employers who pay taxes through the State Unemployment Tax Act – the charges will be mutualized. Reimbursing employers will follow existing charging requirements.

Are employees who self-quarantine covered?

Although many employers are recommending that employees work from home, some employees are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to self-quarantine despite not showing any symptoms. ODJFS has stated that asymptomatic employees who impose a self-quarantine will generally not be eligible for unemployment benefits. ODJFS reasons that in this scenario, the individual – not the employer – is choosing not to work. This is a fluid situation, however, and ODJFS has stated that the facts of each circumstance are important in making this determination.

There is no question that COVID-19 will continue to have implications on employers and employees alike. We will continue to keep you apprised of any developments.