COLUMBUS — Ohio will end its participation in pandemic-era federal unemployment programs on June 26, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday.
The decision comes as many open jobs around the state are going unfilled as the state's economy continues to try to rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Joe Biden had announced his administration would extend the federal unemployment benefits to an additional $300 per week through Sept. 6, an effort to ease the transition as the economy slowly reopens.
However, leaders in about a dozen states have announced they are leaving the federal program, expressing concerns about a labor shortage and suggested the additional federal benefit was a disincentive for some people to return to the workforce.
The assistance "is, in some cases, certainly discouraging people from going back (to work)," DeWine said during a press briefing, which came less than 24 hours after he announced all statewide health orders would be lifted June 2.
"We're coming out of the crisis economically," the governor said. "This (extra benefit) couldn't go on forever. The federal government was going to end it in September and we just think it's time in Ohio."
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Ohio's unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in March from 5 percent in February. Earlier this week, DeWine announced the rule would return requiring people to actively be looking for work in order to obtain state jobless benefits.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the state's Ohio Means Jobs website had 181,472 jobs listed on Thursday, including more than 92,000 paying more than $50,000 annually.
"We're just going back to the traditional system," Husted said, adding the state's unemployment rate was at 4 percent before the pandemic. "There are an ample number of jobs out there.
"The people who had hesitancy (to go back to work) couldn't get the vaccine. It made sense to have the extra resource when there weren't enough jobs and people couldn't get the vaccine," Husted said.
DeWine said the additional federal benefit was always meant to be temporary and that his administration would notify the U.S. Labor Dept. of its plans to withdraw from the program.
"When this program was put in place, it was a lifeline for many Americans at a time when the only weapon we had in fighting the virus was to slow its spread through social distancing, masking, and sanitization," DeWine said.
"That is no longer the case. That is no longer our only tool in this fight," the governor said in reference to the COVID-19 vaccines.