Ohio’s unemployment compensation system provides a short-term safety net for workers who have been laid off or lost a job and are searching for new employment. As we all know, life happens, and many times the loss of a job can be unexpected, sudden, and life-changing. When people fall on hard times, unemployment benefits help them continue to support their families until they can get back on their feet.
However, when the recession rocked the nation back in 2007, Ohio needed to borrow money from the federal government to keep unemployment benefits for the thousands of people who lost jobs seemingly all at once. While taking on the loan was a necessary step to keep Ohio families economically stable during an unstable job market, businesses were forced to pay higher unemployment taxes as a result. Today, nearly a decade after the recession hit, the General Assembly and I are proud to announce that Ohio has taken steps to pay off the remaining $271 million of the unemployment compensation debt to the federal government.
This payoff is a big win for employers in the state who felt the impact of the loan firsthand—the higher taxes resulted in less money to pay employees and less money to reinvest back into businesses. Through the passage of House Bill 390, the state enacted a business-backed plan to utilize unclaimed funds in the Department of Commerce to repay the loan. Businesses will then repay the state through a one-time surcharge in 2017. This one-time payment will be approximately $76 less per employee than the tax penalties each business would have faced had the loan not been repaid. Ohio businesses will save an estimated $351 million next year because of this change.
Although this debt repayment plan is good news for the state, employers, and Ohio workers, we must still address the overall effectiveness of the unemployment compensation system. That’s why the General Assembly announced the creation of the Unemployment Compensation Reform Joint Committee this past August. This committee is currently researching the system and hearing input from the business community and the workforce with the goal of developing a long-term solution to assure its sustainability and solvency. A stable system will ensure that should another recession hit in the future, Ohio will have sufficient reserves to support itself and will not have to borrow money from the federal government again.
Our ultimate purpose is to encourage a healthy business atmosphere in Ohio. With stronger and more successful companies and industries, more Ohioans can find sufficient and satisfying jobs, leading to a flourishing economy. By taking these essential steps, we are building a stronger state that will more effectively adjust to the ebbs and flows of the economy.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.