Ohio Department of Job and Family Services tries to bolster its own workforce by posting jobs with no medical benefits in pandemic

This article is from Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Amid a raging pandemic, Ohio’s agency responsible for looking out for workers’ welfare has started posting full-time temporary jobs with no benefits for its own workforce. 

For example, this week the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) sought to hire an “electronic design specialist,” a job that requires a bachelor’s degree, years of experience, or some combination of both. The hours listed are full time, with a schedule that is “not negotiable” and the position is “not eligible” for benefits.  

As total COVID-19 cases in the state soared to nearly 600,000 and deaths rose to almost 8,000, Eye on Ohio asked why the positions are listed without medical benefits when large employers have to give most of their workforce— even temporary workers— medical insurance eventually under the Affordable Care Act, or pay a penalty. 

A spokesman for ODJFS said “Benefit eligibility under the ACA for temporary or part-time positions is determined based on the length of time employed and hours worked during that period of time.” 

Eye on Ohio further inquired if the positions have a set end date and why officials listed positions with no health care as the chances of getting a debilitating disease have risen. Officials did not respond to multiple requests to comment. 

Each job posting begins with, “The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ mission is to improve the well-being of Ohio's workforce and families by promoting economic self-sufficiency and ensuring the safety of Ohio's most vulnerable citizens.”

But it’s not clear if ODJFS’ own workers could be self-sufficient with its own positions: according to Heatlhcare.gov, a monthly premium for a nonsmoking family of four in Columbus is approximately $810. That’s about 24% of what an ODJFS electronic design would make after taxes.

After seven month legal battle, Eye on Ohio wins public records lawsuit over hospital capacity numbers

Court of Claims Rules that the Ohio Department of Health must disclose the number of beds and other equipment available

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join our free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. As the ongoing pandemic continues to surge, the Ohio Court of Claims ruled last week that the Department of Health must share public records with Eye on Ohio, showing the number of beds and ventilators available for COVID-19 patients at individual hospitals throughout the state. 

The ruling comes seven months after Eye on Ohio initially sought the records. 

“In times of crisis transparency is paramount,” said Rebekah Crawford, who has her Ph.D. in Health Communication, Relating & Organizing from Ohio University. People want credibility and clear lines around what is known and what is uncertain. “When risk communicators are at their best,” Crawford said, “they remain credible by showing what is known and what is not known and by being clear about why we don’t know, and what we’re going to do to find out.” 

When Eye on Ohio first requested records, at the end of March, the state had only about 2,200 confirmed cases and 55 deaths, according to the online Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Coming out while stuck inside: LGBTQ+ youth and young adults face unique mental health risks as pandemic rages on

When Tyler, a sophomore at Cleveland State University, started hormone replacement therapy two months before spring break, the last thing he expected was to spend the rest of the semester with his parents in Westbrook, New York. Tyler had been living with three other trans students he befriended through CSU’s LGBTQ+ Student Services before campus housing closed in mid-March. When Tyler moved in with his parents, they were still uncomfortable with his trans identity and were not using his preferred pronouns (he/his). 

“I wasn’t out in high school and college was the first place I felt like I was actually able to be myself,” Tyler said. “I felt like my sense of community was ripped away all at once.”

Those first few months of quarantine, when Tyler didn’t have a laptop and couldn’t access CSU’s online counseling or the LGBTQ+ center’s virtual drop-ins, were emotionally rough. “The conversations I had with my parents were conversations I was not prepared for, especially being on hormones.

CDC Reverses Course Again on Using Race As Testing Criteria

Minority Groups with Higher Case and Death Rates Deemed a Priority, Then Not

After changing the guidelines to test ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, the CDC reversed course again Wednesday, saying that African Americans exposed to the virus could not get tested without symptoms.

A May 3 directive allowed physicians to test “persons without symptoms who come from racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by adverse COVID-19 outcomes—currently African Americans, Hispanics, and some American Indian tribes (e.g., Navajo Nation).” 

On May 6, however, all mention of race and ethnicity disappeared. The agency once again advised prioritizing persons with symptoms, especially if they were hospitalized, or were healthcare workers. Asymptomatic persons could be tested if  local health departments deemed it necessary for surveillance or monitoring, the CDC said. Nationally, CDC statistics reveal Blacks comprise 28 percent of the nation’s 1.5 million COVID cases and 21 percent of fatalities — more than double their percentage of the nation’s population. It’s a change that the National Medical Association, the nation’s oldest organization advocating for African American physicians and patients, has been advocating for since April 15.