Update on Unemployment Compensation in the Pandemic

As the nation heads back to work against the advice of our public health experts, workers will have difficult decisions to make - paycheck or safety, employer or family. Not everyone in need will receive the promised Pandemic Relief check. And some states are moving to deny compensation to workers who are called back to work in less than safe conditions. 

The President and governors are eager to “get America back to work.” But the process of opening the country back up violates the Trump administration’s own guidelines and the advice of countless public health officials, driving up the death count, already at 78,000 and up to a predicted 100,000 or more. 

Workers will have to choose between their safety and their jobs. Many will be compelled to be in an unsafe situation. Meanwhile, Ohio has moved to implement a policy which will deny unemployment compensation to workers who refuse to return to work for fear of their safety. 

“The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services set up a website for employers to report workers who refuse to come to work and emailed companies about it Friday. The department’s policy indicates if people refuse to go back to work and their jobs are available, they cannot qualify for unemployment benefits.”

One Licking County worker, a mother of four, put it this way:


There are a lot of hard decisions that have to be made during this time because I am not the only one I have to think about, and I am the only one my children are counting on. 

They started asking for volunteers the last couple of weeks at work, and because I am playing school teacher to four children in different grades, I feel that I need to be home to help them to make sure that they pass and my senior graduates. 

(It’s a struggle getting school work done while I am home and, let's be honest, how can I blame my kids for not wanting to do school work if I was away at work and not there to manage completion of the work?) 

So I have not been volunteering so far. Hopefully, I am not looked at later down the line like I am not a team player, or my work ethic is any different because I am not volunteering right now. 

Since childcare is closed, then that’s another issue with returning to work as well. Work is not providing any relief with that when we have asked. But I will be required to return to work when they call us back even if childcare has not opened back up by then. 

They have told us when we come back we will be working by ourselves which I feel comfortable about, but we may be paired up with someone and I have to just take their word that they have followed all the social distancing practices and hope they have. We have been told they do not have masks to provide us (because they can’t get any orders with the shortage, probably because we are not essential like a medical facility). We are to provide our own on our own dime, and as of right now they have an estimate of three month’s supply of gloves. With where we’re at right now, the chances of  getting these things are slim until who knows when they catch back up on these supplies.

What I do know is I need an income to survive life!

These are the “knowns,”  kind of … But the unknowns are the problem at this point. And I will have to make decisions along the way for different reasons, whether it is safety based; whether it’s income based because we need food, housing, etc.; what's best and manageable for all things considered; and what's best for my children and me. 

Today, if you ask, I may have one answer, but down the road at a later date, I may have a different answer because of life's necessities.


Allen Schwartz and Anonymous