By Marty Schladen and Ohio Capital Journal

The federal government has approved a $300-a-week supplement for unemployed Ohioans, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said on Tuesday. He added that people should start receiving the funds before the end of the month.

Given the amount the state is receiving — $717 million — and assuming that about 500,000 Ohioans are eligible, that’s enough for just under five weeks’ worth of benefits.

Federal policymakers have been struggling to come up with a coronavirus-related unemployment supplement since an earlier, $600-a-week one expired at the end of July.

The Democratically led U.S. House of Representatives in May passed a $3 trillion relief bill that would have extended the $600-a-week supplement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, in July introduced a $1 trillion bill with a $200-a-week supplement, but he acknowledged that he didn’t have the votes to pass it.

Amid the impasse and dire predictions that many unemployed Americans would go hungry or homeless, President Donald Trump took executive actions freeing up $44 billion in disaster-relief funds for a supplement. 

The benefits will be awarded retroactively to Aug. 1. 

“We’re still set for mid to late September,” Husted said during a Tuesday press conference when asked when Ohioans will begin seeing the funds. “We have been approved for $717 million. That will be paid out until the money’s gone and at that point in time we would need to see an action from Congress appropriating additional money to continue that program.”

It’s unclear whether such action is forthcoming. 

In negotiating with the White House last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, agreed to come down to $2 trillion in their relief bill. But the Washington Post reported Tuesday that McConnell was moving in the opposite direction, planning to introduce a relief bill about half the size of his earlier one.

In a piece of good news for some struggling Ohioans, Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced that another round of federal food assistance for children eligible for free or reduced-price meals is coming later this month. He said that the first round of such funding in the spring provided more than $200 million in food assistance to more than 800,000 children.

The governor called on Ohio schools to share information about who is eligible for the program with state officials.

“The goal is to ensure that every single child gets the benefit from this program,” DeWine said.

Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He’s won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.