More than 187,000 Ohioans filed for unemployment last week according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the most since the recession in the early 1980s. The number likely would be even higher if many people weren't having problems filing for unemployment on the department's website.
It's a problem that's persisted all week and one that has state officials scrambling to come up with a solution.
“I have to talk to somebody at some point," said Amanda Peterfy, a hairdresser in Westerville who was forced to stop working when the governor ordered all salons to close. "You just can't get a hold of anyone. Because of how close we come to people, we just can’t work right now and people that still are working, it really isn’t safe. People that are doing people at home, it’s not safe. You’re going to keep spreading what is happening and that’s what sucks. We just can’t do it. We can’t work.”
Many viewers have called and emailed ABC6/FOX28 with the same problems with the website not working or the phone line hanging up because it's busy.
“It’s just a mess," she said. "Just the system from the beginning just crashing. I’ve tried to call at least once a day. Today I think I’m at about 60. I’ve tried to call 60 times today and can’t get through.”
The Department of Job and Family Services said that typically during a recession, unemployment claims will come in steadily over the course of several weeks or months. The sudden shutdown of nearly every sector of the economy during the pandemic created a "tsunami" where all those filings came in at once.
“I really understand there’s a lot of us in this boat," said Monica Osborne, a hairdresser in Sunbury who has also struggled to file for unemployment.
"I understand they’re doing the best they can but that site is not working well for us.”
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said people won't be punished because they were unable to file on time. He said people will be able to retroactively get the benefits they're eligible for since the system has been overwhelmed.
“It’s like a rush hour on the highway," Husted said. "The highway system is built for a certain capacity and when we exceed that capacity, the system can’t handle it. We want to ease your minds at least to know that you may not be able to get through this system in the time frame you’re trying to do that your benefits will not be affected by it.”
Osborne said she's hoping for some certainty about when she may be able to get her unemployment benefits.
“We don’t know," Osborne said. "That’s the uncertainty of it when you don’t know where your next dollar is going to come from.”
Peterfy said hopefully she can just get back to work.
“Just got to hope that (the pandemic) doesn’t go past when it’s supposed to go past," Peterfy said. "Right now we should be able to go back by the 6th I think and really hoping that stays true.”
Husted said state officials were adding servers to expand the capacity of the website. He said people should try filing during off peak times when there may be less traffic on the website.