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Impacted by statewide closures? Here are some resources that can help

From changes to unemployment benefits, to meals for your kids, here is everything you need to get through the various closures throughout Ohio.

OHIO, USA — Throughout the state of Ohio, businesses, schools and other institutions have temporarily closed in an ongoing effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.

If you have been impacted by the statewide shutdowns, here are some resources that can help:

UNEMPLOYMENT

On Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine directed all bars and restaurants to close dining room service. Carry-out and delivery services are still allowed at this time. 

FOR OHIO WORKERS

In an effort to alleviate some of the strain on industry workers, DeWine is expected to sign an executive order allowing restaurant staff to access unemployment compensation.

APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BY CLICKING HERE.

According to Lt. Gov. John Husted, changes to the way unemployment is administered are also in the works. You can view those changes here.

Legislators will be broadening policy to clarify that individuals quarantined by a health professional or by their employer are considered to be unemployed and will not be subject to the usual requirements to actively seek work during the period of emergency.

Ohio usually has a one-week waiting period before someone can receive unemployment, however, DeWine's order waives the waiting period so eligible workers can receive benefits for the first week.

File online here 24 hours/day, seven days a week. Note that the office is experiencing slow processing times due to high claims activity. You can also call toll-free 1-877-644-6562 .

FOR MICHIGAN WORKERS

You can file for unemployment in Michigan online by CLICKING HERE.

Unemployment benefits are available for workers who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. Executive Order 2020-10 temporarily expands eligibility for unemployment benefits workers who are temporarily out of work due to COVID-19. 

Under the Mich. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order, unemployment benefits are extended to: 

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off. 
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. 

Access to benefits for unemployed workers will also be extended:

  • Claimants are not required to register for work. 
  • For those workers indicating in their claim filing that they expect to return to work with the same employer within 120 days, the application for benefits will be used to satisfy the seeking work requirement. 
  • The number of weeks a person may receive benefits is increased from 20 to 26 weeks. A claim for unemployment benefits begins the week it is filed. Workers should file their claim during their first week of unemployment. 

There are two ways to file a new claim or re-open an existing claim: 

  • FASTEST AND PREFERRED METHOD: Online – Visit www.michigan.gov/uia and sign into MILogin to access or create an account on the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM). For step by step instructions on how to create an account, view the MiWAM Toolkit for Claimants at michigan.gov/uia 
  • Telephone – Call 1-866-500-0017. If you are hearing impaired, TTY service is available at 1-866- 366-0004. See the UIA website at Michigan.gov/uia for Information needed to file a claim  

For more information, click here.

FOR OHIO EMPLOYERS

To avoid penalizing individual employers by increasing future taxes, the costs of the additional benefits will be mutualized.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will also waive employer penalties for late reporting and payments for the next quarter to assist employers impacted by lack of staff availability.

For bar and restaurant owners, DeWine announced Monday a one-time liquor buyback option to aid establishments who stocked up ahead of St. Patrick's Day. All the owner or F2 permit holder has to do, is return the unopened high-proof liquor product back to Contract Liquor Agency that they bought it from.

MICHIGAN EMPLOYERS

TEMPORARY LEAVE VS. TERMINATION

Due to the uncertainty regarding potential congressional action on how furloughed workers will be able to access federal resources, employers are strongly urged to place employees on temporary leave as opposed to termination. There is no additional cost to employers, employees remain eligible for unemployment benefits and they may remain eligible for potential federal assistance. Steps for employers placing employers on temporary unpaid leave:

  • Do not terminate the employee – specify a temporary / indefinite leave with return to work expected that is within 120 days.
  • Do not create a contractual obligation to bring the employee back to work – let the employee know that the situation is fluid and subject to change.
  • Provide the employee with a formal Unemployment Compensation Notice. Employers will need to provide their Employer Account Number and Federal Identification Number.
  • Communicate to the employee about their rights. Under Governor Whitmer’s recent Executive Order, workers placed on leave, or are unable to work because they are sick, quarantined, immunocompromised, or have an unanticipated family care responsibility, are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Ensure employers are provided information on how to obtain unemployment insurance benefits. A factsheet can be found here.

For more information on how unemployment impacts Michigan employers, click here.

RELATED: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine orders all bars, restaurants to temporarily close for dine-in customers beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday

UTILITY SHUT-OFFS

With some Ohioans temporarily out of work, or working fewer hours, many are concerned about how bills will get paid. 

Local utilities are working to help those most impacted by statewide closures and many have promised to keep things running, even if you aren't able to pay. Here is a look at what companies are involved and what to do if you need help during the state emergency.

ENGAGE TOLEDO

If you live in Toledo and your water has been turned off for non-payment, you can call Engage Toledo at 419-936-2020 to have it tuned back on.

AEP OHIO

Leaders with power company AEP Ohio announced Friday they would be temporarily suspending all disconnections for non-payment due to the number of restrictions in the state amid coronavirus concerns.

At AEP Ohio, we're committed to the health and safety of our custome... rs, communities and employees. We're closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and have taken a number of necessary steps, including: --Temporarily suspending customer disconnections for non-payment. --Asking employees to work from home if they are able to do so.

For more information about AEP, click here.  

RELATED: AEP Ohio suspends disconnection for non-payment amid coronavirus closures

OHIO EDISON

As of Friday, service shutoffs for past-due Ohio Edison customers have been discontinued. Leaders with the company said in a Facebook post that they would be monitoring the situation and adjust the company's policy as circumstances develop. 

Customers who are facing hardships should call 1-800-447-3333.

👷⚡ We've teamed up with local community colleges to train the next generation of line workers and substation electricians. If you're interested in line or substation work, check out our Power Systems Institute training program + attend an information session ➡️ www.firstenergycorp.com/PSI

COLUMBIA GAS

Columbia Gas representatives announced that they will voluntarily suspend shutoffs for nonpayment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively immediately. 

This suspension will apply to residential, commercial and industrial customers and will remain in effect until further notice. 

In addition, Columbia Gas will offer its most flexible payment plans to customers who indicate either an impact or hardship as a result of COVID-19 and will suspend late payment charges until May 1. 

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has extended the Winter Reconnect Order through May 1, 2020.  This order allows anyone whose gas service is currently off for non-payment or who is looking to establish new service and has a balance due of more than $175 to have their natural gas service reconnected or established by making a payment of just $175 plus any applicable deposit or reconnection fees. Customers will also be required to enter into payment plan arrangements for their remaining balance. Customers who wish to take advantage of the Winter Reconnect Order. Customers who have questions about getting their natural gas service reconnected or established should call Columbia Gas of Ohio at 1-800-344-4077.  

For more information, click here.

FIFTH THIRD BANK

Leaders at Fifth Third Bank announced Wednesday a number of new deferral programs aimed at bringing to relief to those financially impacted by coronavirus.

Here are the new programs being offered:

  • Vehicle Payment Deferral Program: The bank is offering a payment deferral for up to 90 days and no late fees during the deferral period. 
  • Credit Card Deferral Program: The bank is offering a payment deferral for up to three payments and no late fees during the deferral period.
  • Mortgage and Home Equity Program: The bank is offering 90-day payment forbearance with no late fees. 
  • Small Business Payment Deferral Program: The bank is offering a payment deferral program for up to 90 days, no late fees and a range of loan modification options. We are waiving all fees on our Fifth Third Fast Capital loans for 6 months.
  • Fee Waiver Program: The bank is offering to waive fees for up to 90 days for a range of consumer and small business deposit products and services.
  • The bank is suspending initiating any new repossession actions on vehicles for the next 60 days.
  • The bank is suspending all foreclosure activity on homes for the next 60 days.

RELATED: Fifth Third Bank enacts deferral programs for customers impacted by COVID-19

INTERNET PROVIDERS

Dozens of internet providers have pledged to relax penalties for missed bills amid economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

The FCC enacted the "Keep Americans Connected" pledge, instructing internet companies not to terminate service or charge late fees to any residential or small business customer that cannot pay internet bills for 60 days. 

The agreement also asks providers to open WiFi hotspots to any American who needs them. 

The following companies have signed the pledge:

  • ACIRA – Powered by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company & Federated Telephone 
  • Allstream Business US
  • AlticeUSA
  • Antietam Broadband
  • Atlantic Broadband
  • AT&T
  • BBT
  • BOYCOM Vision
  • Burlington Telecom
  • Cable One
  • Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative
  • CenturyLink
  • Charter
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Citizens Connected
  • Comcast
  • Consolidated Communications
  • Cox Communications
  • Digital West
  • East Ascension Telephone Company
  • Education Networks of America
  • Emery Telecom
  • Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative
  • FirstLight
  • Frontier
  • Google Fiber
  • Grande Communications
  • Granite Telecommunications
  • Great Plains Communications
  • GWI
  • Hiawatha Broadband
  • Hill Country
  • IdeaTek Telcom
  • Inteliquent
  • Lafourche Telephone Company
  • Lakeland Communications
  • Long Lines Broadband
  • Mammoth Networks/Visionary Broadband
  • Mediacom
  • MetTel
  • Nex-Tech
  • Ninestar Connect
  • Northwest Fiber
  • Orbitel Communications
  • Pioneer Communications
  • Premier Communications
  • Range Telephone Cooperative
  • RCN
  • Reserve Telephone Company
  • Sacred Wind Communications
  • Shawnee Communications
  • Socket Telecom
  • Sonic
  • Sprint
  • Starry
  • TDS Telecom
  • TelNet Worldwide
  • TMobile
  • TracFone Wireless
  • Uniti Fiber
  • US Cellular
  • Vast Broadband
  • Verizon
  • Vyve Broadband Investments
  • Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom
  • Wave Broadband
  • West Telecom Services
  • Windstream
  • ZenFi Networks

RELATED: Comcast, Verizon and others won't cut internet over late bills through early May

Buckeye Broadband: Buckeye is also helping the cause. In a message sent out to customers Wednesday, the company said they will suspend the disconnection of high-speed data effective immediately and for the next 30 days.  

Buckeye Broadband is also working with local schools to identify and provide reliable internet service to students for online learning. Parents and students are encouraged to contact Buckeye and their school's administration as soon as possible to coordinate the initiative. 

RELATED: Fifth Third Bank enacts deferral programs for customers impacted by COVID-19

HELP WITH FOOD

Kids are out of school and grocery lines are long. While restaurant dining rooms are closed, many are offering carry-out options and delivery service, check with your favorite spot to see what they have planned.

If you need help affording meals or are elderly and wish to avoid going somewhere in person, there are a number of community organizations stepping up to the plate.

FOR KIDS

Last week, DeWine closed Ohio schools for at least three weeks due to COVID-19 concerns. Community partners in across the region have come together to support school-age-children seeking food.

TOLEDO -
Connecting Kids to Meals (CKTM) is setting up 15 meal sites across Lucas County, and will distribute 12,000 weekend snack bags. 

As previously announced: Toledo Public Schools also will serving grab and go meals to students out of eight school-locations. Parents and guardians can reserve a meal at a school by calling or texting United Way 211. 

Our Club members WILL still have access to meals while the schools a... re closed!

The eight TPS locations serving grab and go meals are:

  • Bowsher
  • Rogers
  • Scott
  • Start
  • Toledo Tech Academy
  • Waite
  • Woodward
  • Jones Leadership Academy. 

If a parent or guardian cannot physically access one of the eight schools or one of the 15 CKTM sites, they will be given a private, “emergency” food number to call. At that number, they will leave a message and TPS representatives will coordinate home-food-delivery.

Every year we host our summer community cookout. This year the community needs our help sooner. (we will still be hosting our summer community cookout) Starting Monday, March 16th Toledo Hemp Center...

SYLVANIA - Sylvania schools have also laid out a plan to feed kids within the district. 

  • Central Trail Elementary (11 a.m. - 2 p.m.)
  • Hill View Elementary (11 a.m. - 2 p.m.)
  • Northview High School (10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)

 You will stay in your car. And school leaders will bring meals out to you. Please check the Sylvania Schools website for instructions on how to enter the pickup line at each location.

NORTHWOOD - The Northwood school district will have four bus routes leaving the building at 11 a.m. to deliver meals to bus stops throughout Northwood.  The goal is to have the buses playing music so people can hear them coming.

If you can make it to any bus stop you can pick up a lunch (and breakfast for the next day) at no cost. This will continue from March 17-20 and March 30-April 3 at a minimum. 

Students with work to turn in to the school can give that to the staff on the buses.  If there is work to hand out to students that will likely be available on those buses as well as in the office for pick up. 

BEDFORD - Drive-thru food assistance is being offered through Bedford Public Schools.

Beginning Tuesday, March 17, the district will have drive-thru service options for families who need continued food service support during the state's mandated closure. 

All children 18 and under and special education students under the age of 26 are eligible for free meals. Students do not need to be enrolled at Bedford Public Schools to receive these federally funded benefits.

Here are the scheduled pickup locations:

  • Monroe Road Elementary School
  • Bedford High School

Pickup Times:

  • Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays: 10:30 a.m. -
    12:30 p.m.
  • Wednesdays: 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.

A free, boxed lunch will be provided along with breakfast for the next day. These will be cold meals consisting of:

  • Breakfast: Fruit, Whole Grain Item (such as cereal or muffin) & Milk
  • Lunch: Fruit, Vegetable, Milk, Whole Grain, and Meat/Meat Alternative

If alternate pick up times need to be arranged, please contact the Food Service department at 734-850-6127.

RELATED: Community partners working together to get meals to schoolchildren

For activities to keep your kids occupied during school closures, text the word HOME to 419-248-1100.

ADULTS UNABLE TO LEAVE HOME

MAUMEE VALLEY UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH - Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is offering assistance by letting people request delivery of groceries and/or other household supplies. Additionally, folks can request a daily check-in via phone call. 

Leaders with the church are reaching out to help those who belong to high-risk groups (like senior citizens and those who are immunocompromised) as well as parents whose children are home due to school closures.

Both the grocery delivery service and the daily check-in will be available over the next three weeks, from March 16 - April 6, with the possibility of continuing if needed.

If you are interested in receiving assistance, you are asked to contact Megan Rancier at sac@mvuuc.org with your name, phone number which type of assistance you would like to receive. Groceries and supplies should be paid for by the recipient via cash or check directly to the volunteer.

MOBILE MEALS - The “Meals on Wheels” program serves over 2,800 clients annually, bringing 326,000 nutritious meals each year to homebound people who are elderly, ailing or physically disabled.

To apply, click here

UNITED WAY - If you need food assistance, help paying bills, access to childcare or other essential services, dial 211 to talk with someone from the United Way. There are offices all throughout our area and across the country.

The 211 number is a toll-free health and human services referral service system available across all 50 states, DC and in Puerto Rico. The mission is to connect people with information and resources to build healthy, safe communities. The 211 system and its 24-hour service is available for individuals and families with needs during this national emergency.

For more on the United Way, click here.

RELATED: United Way to help provide daily meals for Findlay students through statewide school closures

MENTAL HEALTH

The Ohio Dept. of Health has a number of resources available for those coping with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Family Activities to Try During COVID-19 Closures - Link
  • COVID-19 and Reducing Panic - Link
  • COVID-19 and Anxiety - Link
  • Kids and COVID-19 - Link
  • Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event  - Link
  • Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation  - Link
  • Coping with Stress During an Infectious Disease Outbreak - Link

INFORMATION ABOUT COVID-19

In addition to the wealth of information located on both the CDC and World Health Organization websites, there are some local resources you can reach out to when you have questions regarding coronavirus.

TOLEDO HEALTH DEPT. - Toledo and Lucas County Residents can call 419-251-4000 or 419-291-5355 with questions about COVID-19 24 hours a day.

OHIO DEPT. OF HEALTH - If you have any questions regarding coronavirus and how it is affecting our state, there is a statewide hotline. Just call 833-4-ASK-ODH

WTOL - You can always text the WTOL phone number at 419-248-1100 to get the latest information. Send the word FACTS to get updated links, or send a specific question and we will do our best to find your verified answers.

Facts not fear: Putting COVID-19 into context

WTOL 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit wtol.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 419-248-1100.

Protect yourself from coronavirus

  • Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined can. 
  • Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. 
  • Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not readily available, use and alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. 
  • Avoid touching: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.