Ohio Sees Massive Unemployment Surge Due To Coronavirus
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Hundreds of thousands of people have already been laid off due to coronavirus. People in the hospitality and service industries have been hit particularly hard since states have ordered bars to close - also restaurant dining rooms, theaters, gyms and so forth. Other industries have proactively laid off employees, anticipating decreased business or recession. In Ohio alone, tens of thousands of people have already applied for unemployment insurance. I am joined now by Ohio's lieutenant governor Republican Jon Husted.
Lieutenant Governor, welcome.
JON HUSTED: Great to be with you.
KELLY: What are the numbers? How many people have filed unemployment claims this week in Ohio versus what a typical week this time of year would look like?
HUSTED: Well, we had 78,000 people file for unemployment during the first three days of this week - that includes Sunday, Monday, Tuesday - 29,000 yesterday.
HUSTED: And just to put this in perspective, the week before, we had about 6,500, so - and that's - this is good in the sense that we want people to get access to unemployment as quickly as possible.
KELLY: Right. You want to hear from them.
HUSTED: Yeah. We want to hear from them. We want to get them enrolled so that they'll have the money to pay the rent, pay the mortgage, keep their personal lives in order.
KELLY: And what type of people are you hearing from?
HUSTED: Well, the ones that have been affected earliest are the ones who are - you know, work at the institutions - first of all, the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry, whether it's hotels, bars, restaurants - they were some of the first ones impacted by this.
KELLY: So waiters and bartenders and dishwashers and cooks and all that, yeah.
HUSTED: Yeah, absolutely. But now, by the end of the week, we will have major global manufacturers suspending operations, so this is going to continue to grow rapidly.
KELLY: It occurs to me to ask about the people fielding this massive flood of claims. Are they mostly working from home?
HUSTED: Well, we have a combination across the entire platform of everything we do, from the coronavirus hotline to unemployment. We have moved, at Gov. DeWine's request, people into giant locations where they are spread apart more than six feet so that they are not in danger of spreading the virus to one another because we need - you know, these are critical. These people, this workforce, is critical to helping the 11.7 million people in Ohio, and we want to keep them healthy.
KELLY: And what kind of giant locations are you talking?
HUSTED: You know, former warehouses, things like that have space.
KELLY: So state workers who've been relocated out of their normal premises to...
KELLY: ...Socially distanced ones. Wow.
HUSTED: Yes. And we've had businesses offer up their call centers that are also making their services available. For example, we had a hotel chain that said, look; we're not taking reservations at our call center. They offered it up to let us use it.
KELLY: Is there anything specific you need from the federal government that would help?
HUSTED: Yeah. We put a list together, mailed that to President Trump and Vice President Pence - gave them a call. I know the governor talked to the president last night - been doing conference calls with our mayors, with our congressional delegation. One of the things that we're looking at that's of concern on unemployment is that you have a lot of people who are 1099s, meaning that they're independently operating in businesses - that might mean a hairdresser or somebody like that who, if we close these places, they will not be eligible for unemployment under the traditional mechanisms. And so we're reaching out, saying, help us find solutions for them, too.
KELLY: So that's what you're asking for. Are you satisfied with what you're hearing back? You'll have followed, as we all did, I guess, the recent back-and-forth over comments from the White House that states, for example, trying to get ventilators - you should tackle that on your own first.
HUSTED: Well, look; we are all in this together. We have to do our part to solve problems on our own. We can't just, you know - we don't expect local governments to call us and to - us to solve all their problems. And we certainly don't expect the federal government to solve all of ours, so we're - we'll work at this as fast as we can. But we have...
KELLY: To my question again, are you satisfied with what you're getting back from the federal government?
HUSTED: Yes. They've been very responsive. There's no question that America was not prepared for this. We do not have a supply chain to do simple things like provide swabs. All the swabs for the hospitals, for example, for testing for coronavirus are made in Italy. They may have the tests, but they don't even have enough swabs to do the physical sampling to run the tests. So these are the kinds of things that are - throughout our supply chain - that America is going to learn that we have to fix this going forward. It's going to be a tough lesson for us.
KELLY: Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Republican of Ohio.
Thank you very much for your time; best of luck.
HUSTED: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO'S "L") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.