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Gov. Mike DeWine announces Ohio will opt out of $300 federal unemployment program starting June 26

The supplement has been available since last year, part of the package of pandemic stimulus measures passed by Congress.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — During his COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that the state will be opting out of the federal government's $300 pandemic unemployment program effective on June 26. 

The supplement has been available since last year, part of the package of pandemic stimulus measures passed by Congress.

"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 it’s spread through social distancing, masking, and sanitization," DeWine noted. "That is no longer the case. That is no longer our only tool in this fight. This assistance was always intended to be temporary."

DeWine noted that in some cases, the $300 supplement has been discouraging Ohioans from going back to work. In addition to Ohio, at least 11 other states are opting out of federal unemployment benefits programs in June or July, a few months before the Sept. 6 expiration.

Ann Reichle been operating Angelina's Pizza in Olmsted Falls since it opened over 26 years ago, and learned enough in that time to know this past year has been very different.

"The restaurant business has always been a business of change," she said. "It's been everything I could have ever imagined packed into one tiny little year."

Restaurants have dealt with closures, mandates, capacity limits and supply shortages. It's been one hurdle after another, and the latest issue has been finding workers to meet a resurgence in demand.

"We have been working short a manager for about 15 months now," Reichle told 3News. "We are still short several kitchen staff and we have zero applications."

To try and cope, Angelin's Pizza has started closing on Mondays to give their workers a break. As an 18-year Ohio Restaurant Association board member, Reichle has been vocal that she feels the problem may lie in that extra $300 dollars from the government for those on employment.

However, Hannah Halbert of Policy Matters Ohio, a nonpartisan and nonprofit research institution, isn't so sure that's the case.

"Employers can't find employees to work the job at the wages and under the conditions that they have on offer," Halbert said. "That's a part of this puzzle."

Halbert says the problem is rooted in other issues, like mothers who don't have daycare availability. In fact, she cites recent numbers that show the number of people who are taking advantage of an extended timeline for benefits, past the normal 26 weeks and emergency use, is just 102 people across the entire state.

"We're talking upwards up 80% of people that were on unemployment back in December are back at work before their unemployment benefits ended," she explained.

RELATED: Restaurant workers call for better wages and benefits before returning to work

Reichle says she understands there are many different reasons for the employee shortage, but for her and the rest of the restaurant and manufacturing industry, they're hopeful the extra money being pulled from unemployment will help and keep them in business.

"I am hoping that by next week, my lobby is full of applicants, but I really am determined that we are getting through this," she said. "I'll find a way to make it all work out."

Thursday's news about the unemployment opt-out comes on the heels of DeWine's announcement on Wednesday that the state's COVID-19 health orders will end on June 2, with the exception of those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

Among the measures being removed are facial covering protocols, social distancing guidelines, and capacity restrictions for indoor and outdoor events. DeWine says the three-week timeline will allow any Ohioan who has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine to obtain one.

DeWine also announced that as an incentive for Ohioans to get their vaccines, there will be several lucrative promotional opportunities. Starting on May 26th, adults in Ohio who have received at least one dose of the vaccine will be entered into a weekly drawing with a prize of up to $1 million.

A total of five weekly drawings for each prize will take place. 

Ohioans under the age of 18 who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be entered into a drawing for a four-year full scholarship to any of Ohio's state colleges and universities, including full tuition, room, and board. The drawing will also be held on May 26 and continue for five straight Wednesdays -- each time randomly selecting one student to receive the full, four-year scholarship. 

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