July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

4,000 in Medina County face loss of jobless compensation

About 4,000 Medina County residents are set to lose their unemployment benefits by the end of April after federal extensions to the benefits expired Tuesday.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported that 34.8 percent of those people have dependents to support.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Emergency Unemployment Compensation is federally funded benefits for those who had exhausted their regular 26 weeks of state-funded benefits. The program, created in 2008, provided up to 99 total weeks of compensation to the qualifying unemployed. But barring another extension from Congress, the additional benefits will eventually expire.

This month, 1,465 Medina County residents will lose their benefits. Only 103 lost them last month, when the extension was still in effect.

Medina County Job and Family Services Director Mead Wilkins said most of those losing their benefits will likely turn to his agency for benefits such as food stamps. “They have to. There’s no place else to go,” he said.

He said he thinks benefits are an important solution to economic and social problems because they provide a safety net to struggling families. He said that without them, fewer Americans can focus on job training and education, “which means we’re going to fall further behind in the world’s work force skill levels.”

Medina County Workforce Development, located at 3721, provides job training and other services for residents. Director Bill Hanigan said his agency will welcome any of the unemployed exhausting their benefits, but hopes that most of them have already been there.

“If they’ve been on unemployment for 99 weeks, I’m deeply concerned that if they needed training… that the window for them to receive training may have already vanished,” he said.

Hanigan said he’s been seeing fewer people coming into the organization as the unemployment rate has been dropping over the last several months. The unemployment rate in Medina County for October was 7.5 percent, the lowest since December 2008.

The all-time high unemployment for the county was 10 percent in February.

“With the unemployment rate coming down our foot traffic is in fact down from six months ago and definitely down from a year ago,” Hanigan said. He noted that the people who remain unemployed generally have fewer skills than those who have found jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.