Gov. Strickland has reservations on bill

COLUMBUS – The Ohio House is expected to vote today to end Ohio’s unique policy of reducing a jobless senior’s unemployment benefits by the amount the person receives in Social Security.

But Gov. Ted Strickland has not yet decided whether he will sign the bill if it is passed by the House, said spokesman Keith Dailey. Strickland supports the concept but would like to see it as part of a broader package of benefit reforms. The Senate passed the measure in May.

Ohio is the only state in the nation to have a full Social Security offset – where 100 percent of a person’s Social Security benefit is subtracted from the amount of unemployment benefits due.

Seniors and their advocates have been pressing for the change for years.

“I’ve lost $6,000 in this deal,” said Charlotte Martell of Columbus, a 67-year-old bookkeeper who lost her job about a year ago. “This law made me so mad. And that it was only in Ohio, and I was lucky enough to live in Ohio, really, really upset me.”

The Ohio Unemployment Compensation Advisory Council recommended reducing the offset to 50 percent more than a year and a half ago, but lawmakers failed to pass a bill.

This year’s bill, sponsored by Sen. Joy Padgett, a Coshocton Republican, would fully eliminate the reduction. It seemed to be stuck in the House Finance Committee, but then a barrage of phone calls spurred it back into action.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce testified in both the House and Senate that the policy change would lead to a bigger financial drain on companies at a time when the state’s unemployment compensation fund – which is entirely supported by employers – is dwindling because of higher unemployment.