Tens of thousands of Ohioans told to repay unemployment benefits

After waiting weeks for unemployment insurance payments, some are receiving letters demanding they pay back thousands; software troubles continue to dog system

Marnie Behan got a surprising message in April from Ohio’s Department of Jobs and Family Services about her ongoing unemployment payments. Instead of sending her next unemployment payment, they said she needed to pay the Department. The bill was almost $3,000. She had 45 days to repay it, or the case would be sent to the Ohio Attorney General. Since March 15, new claims have inundated the unemployment system at a level not seen since The Great Depression.

In Ohio’s coal country, pandemic pushes unemployment rate from bad to worse

As the novel coronavirus spread, Appalachian Ohio saw the state’s highest percentages of people out of work. Ohio’s coal mining counties have been hit even harder as unemployment surged following the country’s novel coronavirus outbreak. As the statewide unemployment rate moved from 4.7% in February to 5.6% in March, counties in Appalachian Ohio also saw rates twice as high — up to 12.2% in Monroe County. The six counties with the highest percentages of people out of work in March were all in the state’s Appalachian region. 

Job security has been an ongoing concern for coal miners and their communities, and the coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse. As of April, the U.S. coal industry had lost one in seven jobs since January, when doctors diagnosed the first U.S. case of COVID-19.