Printed in The Courier on March 31, 2020.
Statewide unemployment numbers have skyrocketed from 7,000 to 188,000 in the last week due to coronavirus-related layoffs. As a result, Hancock County Job and Family Services (JFS) and local nonprofits are coordinating efforts to help unemployed Hancock County residents access federal and state assistance programs.
The stay-at-home order and school closures have created needs and gaps in service locally, according to a news release issued by the United Way of Hancock County. To preserve local nonprofits resources, JFS and a group of nonprofit leaders are meeting to identify and address emerging needs.
“We know nonprofits on the front line will need more resources to meet the increasing demands,” said Angela DeBoskey, United Way of Hancock County chief executive officer. “We also know we need to be coordinated in our efforts and our message to ensure community members who qualify for federal and state assistance are getting connected to those resources.”
“For the recently unemployed, it can be difficult to know what steps to take,” said Randy Galbraith, director of Hancock County Jobs and Family Services. “Aid through state and federal programs should be initiated first and as soon as possible, in order to maintain the long-term availability of local resources.”
The state Department of Job and Family Services requests individuals who have lost their employment, got laid off or are otherwise unable to work due to COVID-19 to apply for unemployment as soon as possible using the mass layoff code 2000180 to expedite the process.
Individuals with internet access can file a claim online at: https://unemployment.ohio.gov. Those without internet access can file by calling 1-877-644-6562 from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Long waits are anticipated when calling due to the increase in volume in unemployment filings.
JFS can help income-eligible individuals and families access other assistance programs such as Ohio Works First cash assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, and Medicaid.
Individuals can apply for these additional assistance programs online at https://benefits.ohio.gov/ or call 1-844-640-6446. Also, applicants may request a paper version be mailed to them by calling the same toll-free number.
The completed application may be placed in the drop box at the JFS office, 7814 Hancock County 140, or faxed to 419-422-1081. If someone currently receives benefits, they can call 1-844-640-6446 to report changes in household employment status.
JFS may be able to assist income-eligible families with payment toward shelter costs through the Prevention, Retention and Contingency program. Due to the statewide emergency, The state is providing counties with additional funding that could provide a payment of $300 for a family’s shelter costs such as rent, mortgage or utilities Many verification and process requirements have been simplified.
The City of Findlay, United Way of Hancock County and the Center for Civic Engagement are directing individuals needing other types of assistance to https://www.hancockhelps.org. The online resource is a sponsored by Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation and lists up-to-date information about community resources.
“Local nonprofit groups are our partners in meeting community needs. Their programs often fill in immediate and ongoing gaps to help our citizens,” said Galbraith. “This type of proactive and coordinated effort to ensure we are connecting community members to all the resources available during this unprecedented time will serve our community well as we begin to get back to a new normal.”
“This is just one example of our community working collectively to meet the current needs of our people,” said Leigh Zydonik, executive director of Center for Civic Engagement. “Nonprofit leaders are meeting regularly to develop and implement a unified approach to addressing our greatest needs.”
“United Way continues collecting relief donations aimed at meeting the immediate basic needs which local nonprofit groups are addressing daily.
Contributions to the United Way Relief Fund maintain the flexibility to respond appropriately as new needs emerge,” DeBoskey said.
Donations to relief fund stay local. Donations will be given to nonprofits responding to and impacted by the current public health crisis.
To donate online at https://www.liveunitedhancockcounty.org/give and enter “crisis response” in the memo section. Checks can be mailed to United Way of Hancock County, 245 Stanford Pkwy., Findlay, Ohio 45840.