With job losses skyrocketing locally and nationally, Butler County Job and Family Services has made it easier and safer for people who are suddenly without jobs to apply for unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid and other assistance.
Bill Morrison, executive director of Job and Family Services, outlined for the Journal-News ways to apply for that help.
“We remain open for business,” Morrison said. “We do have at this point, about 50 percent of our staff working remotely.”
Morrison’s department last week moved the location where people can go to apply for the assistance from the eighth floor of the government services complex at 315 High St. to the building’s street level.
The best way to access the first-floor location is from Court Street, near the parking garage behind the government services center.
“It keeps people from having to go up and down the elevators in order to get to us,” Morrison said. “But we’re still providing all the services that we normally provide out of those locations.
“Having people all have to ride up the elevators together just seemed like that was a virus crunch point. It didn’t make any sense.”
But with local, state and federal officials striving to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, Morrison and others are strongly encouraging people to apply for the benefits and assistance online or over the phone.
“We’re trying to limit the number of people that come in,” he said. “Plus, we know it’s difficult for people to get out right now.”
But for people who can’t use the remote ways of applying, “our intention is to keep the lobby open so we can assist people with paper applications,” Morrison said.
The department did keep open its child support enforcement payment window on the building’s seventh floor because many people pay with cash, and there is security on that level that can’t be duplicated on the first floor, Morrison said.
People can apply for Ohio unemployment 24 hours per day, seven days a week using the site www.unemployment.ohio.gov. Another way to apply is by calling (877) OHIOJOB (1-877-644-6562) or for the hard of hearing, (888)642-8203, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It is faster to apply online, officials said.
The department said to expedite processing of benefits for people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic and to receive their first benefit payments as fast as possible, people should use the “mass layoff number” 2000180 in their applications.
The local OhioMeansJobs Center at 4361 Dixie Highway is open and providing primary services while honoring physical distancing. People who are attending hiring events, workshops or other face-to-face meetings at the OMJ Center should call first to verify the appointments.
To reach the OhioMeansJobs Center, call 513-785-6500.
Food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance
As is the case for unemployment applications, the fastest way to apply for food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance is online at benefits.ohio.gov.
At that site, you can apply, make changes, complete interim reports, and view your application status or benefits information.
People can apply for Medicaid by phone at 844-640-6446.
Those who are unable to use the online application process can request paper applications for Medicaid, food stamps and cash assistance by calling 513-785-5600.
Applications and other documents also may be submitted via fax at 513-887-4334, and by mail to 315 High Street 8th Floor, Hamilton, OH 45011.
You may email applications, documents and verifications to email@example.com. The department will accept photos of documents, or scanned documents, Morrison said.
Applicants also can call 844-640-6446 to sign up to receive text message alerts about the status of their cases and when documents have been received.
For people who do not have access to the online or telephone options, the JFS lobby is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
The first-floor area serving people during the coronavirus crisis is best reached from Court Street near the parking garage that’s behind the government services complex. Signs will guide people to the right office.
Large numbers of applicants
Many people have been applying for the benefits as businesses lay off workers, Morrison said.
“We do have a significant increase, particularly in food stamp applications, as you would imagine, given what’s happening with employment right now,” he said.
“But we’re staying on top of that,” he said. “We were able to get assistance from the state and county (information technology) to set people up to work remotely, and thus far, it seems to be working really well.”
About 90 percent of the childrens’ services staff are working remotely. That staff could do that more easily “because they already had technology that allowed that,” he said.
So far, “we’ve had amazingly little incidence of illness,” he said. “In fact, I think across all four of the agencies that I manage, our current illness rate is less than it usually is this time of year. I’ve got a table next to me that I’m knocking on right now.”
First-floor staff were able to get personal protection equipment to prevent spread of germs.
Resources for people who have lost jobs
Here are ways Butler County residents who have lost jobs can get unemployment, food stamps and other benefits:
Online applications for unemployment:
www.unemployment.ohio.gov can be accessed 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
Phone unemployment applications: Another way to apply for unemployment is (877) OHIOJOB (1-877-644-6562) or for the hard of hearing, (888)642-8203, The number works Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Online applications for food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance: benefits.ohio.gov . Phone applications for Medicaid: 844-640-6446. People also can apply for the benefits in person, but that is discouraged, as a way to deter the spread of coronavirus.