Economy

Facing Deadline, Kasich Refuses Millions In Unemployment Funds Because Expanding Benefits ‘Makes No Sense’

Today, Ohio faces its final deadline to expand its unemployment benefits program. If state officials choose to do so, the state is eligible for $176 million in unemployment insurance funds made available in the 2009 Recovery Act to states that broaden their unemployment programs.

However, despite a steadily increasing unemployment rate that is currently at 9 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has failed to apply for the federal funds. His reasoning? Extending unemployment compensation “makes no sense“:

Gov. John Kasich says it makes no sense for the state to make long-term changes to a fiscally-damaged system for a one-time payment, spokesman Rob Nichols said. And the jobs department, which administers the state’s unemployment compensation system, is not seeking any changes, department spokesman Ben Johnson said. […]

To receive the remaining two-thirds, the state would have to choose two options from among several: Allow people seeking part-time work to qualify for benefits, extend benefits to those in approved job training programs, increase the allowance for dependents, and provide benefits to people who leave work for certain family reasons, such as domestic violence or transfer of a spouse.

State GOP lawmakers, following Kasich’s lead, refused to consider a bill that would allow Ohio to receive the money “by providing benefits to workers who leave their jobs for family reasons and by extending benefits to people in approved job training.” State Senate president Tom Niehaus (R) buried the bill because he too “was concerned that costs of the long-term changes could outweigh the benefits of one-time funding.”

But like most in his party, Kasich seems dedicated to ignoring the fact that one dollar in unemployment benefits generates two dollars in economic growth, in addition to the piece of mind it would provide for the 529,000 unemployed Ohioans struggling to make ends meet. “We’re going to need the benefits to be extended until we get back on our feet,” said one Ohioan who relies on the benefits to support her four children.

Kasich might have more cause to reject the federal funding if his own jobs agenda offered promising results. However, as Plunderbund notes, Ohio saw 14 straight months of dropping unemployment before Kasich assumed the helm. After the first full month with his job-crushing budget at work, Ohio is now in its second month of increasing unemployment.