New Ohio law extends unemployment benefits to transferred military spouses

A new state law allows spouses of transferred military members to collect unemployment benefits if the move forces the spouse to quit their job.

State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, introduced the bill Gov. John Kasich signed into law in mid-December.

The law will increase benefits paid out each year in Ohio by about $242,000 — a mere sliver of the benefits doled each year, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission. The state issued $854.2 million in unemployment benefits in 2017.

About 44 military spouses will claim benefits under the law each year, the analysis found.

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“As part of their service, military members are subject to being transferred to military bases located around the world,” Perales said in written testimony. “A move for a military family often means selling their current home, buying one at the new location, transferring schools, finding a new church, changing doctors and dentists.”

“Legislation of this nature will show military families that Ohio appreciates their service and their sacrifice, and that we welcome them to our state with open arms,” Perales said.

Military spouses often must work to help the family avoid hardship, said James Rickel, of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense-State Liaison Office. But the family has no choice in the job loss, he said in written testimony.

“Members of the Armed Forces do not have the choice to decline a transfer,” Rickel said. “They are directed by a military order to relocate so there is no choice.”

The law extends the benefits to spouses of active duty military service members, as well as spouses of members in the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service.

The bill passed the House 75-4 and the Senate 31-0.

Former Navy serviceman state Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, voted against the measure. He supports the idea of helping military spouses, he said, but doesn’t “think our unemployment system is the right fund from which to provide that assistance.”

“Unemployment is paid for by Ohio businesses and it is meant for times when a business has to lay off employees,” Butler said.

Butler and Perales separately co-sponsored a bill this year designed to ease the re-credentialing process for transferred military spouses whose jobs require a license. The bill passed the House and was introduced in the Senate, but was not been taken up for a vote in that chamber.

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