CLEVELAND — Thousands of Ohio workers are still waiting to find out if state officials will approve their unemployment waiver applications, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
News 5 Investigators found 48,013 waiver applications are still pending as of March 18.
In an email, Tom Betti, Office of Communications, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, wrote, "We are working the waivers in the order they are received and as quickly as possible."
ODJFS has processed the majority of the approximately 155,000 overpayment waivers it has received, in 18,711 UI Waivers and 88,276 PUA Waivers, according to Betti.
In another email, ODJFS spokesperson Bill Teets said there are a number of reasons workers are still waiting for answers. He said approximately 19,000 applicants resolved their issues outside the waiver process. In other cases, he said the state is waiting on claimants to provide basic information to verify their identities and claims.
ODJFS estimates it has paid more than $4.9 billion in non-fraudulent unemployment overpayments since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Non-fraudulent overpayments are monetary benefits accidentally paid to unemployment recipients as ODJFS rushed to provide assistance to workers during the pandemic.
ODJFS estimates it paid approximately $496 million in fraudulent payments.
Unorganized & discombobulated
For workers waiting for a response, like Cleveland resident Greg McPherson, the entire waiver process seems unnecessary, since workers were overpaid through no fault of their own.
McPherson said he submitted an overpayment waiver application last summer but hasn't received a response.
He likened Ohio's unemployment system to a new puzzle. "The pieces are all over the place," he said. "And you have to put it together."
"It's so unorganized. Discombobulated. Screwed up," McPherson said.
McPherson also expressed frustration with the department's customer service.
"If anybody's in my position, you're on your own," he said. "There's zero communication. They keep you in the dark. They don't answer your questions."
McPherson has experienced several other issues with Ohio's unemployment system since he lost his job in 2020.
He is one of approximately 20,000 Ohio workers who were unemployed in 2021 that didn't receive a 1099-G tax form from ODJFS until News 5 Investigators got involved.
RELATED: Approximately, 20,000 unemployed Ohio workers still waiting for 1099-G tax forms
ODJFS said its system failed to generate the tax forms and they are investigating what went wrong.
Despite adding staff and upgrading technology, McPherson said he hadn't seen any improvements in the state's unemployment system.
"They have no clue what they're doing," he said. "They're brain dead. That's what it tells me."