Congress debates unemployment benefits. What does that mean for Portsmouth?

By Patrick Keck -

In Washington, Democrats and Republicans remain divided on the next stimulus check after the CARES Act ended last Friday. The primary disagreement revolves around unemployment benefits which were increased due to the coronavirus, which is seen in the two stimulus proposals: the Heroes Act and the HEALS Act.

The Heroes Act passed the Democrat-majority House in May, which plans on continuing and expanding many benefits of the CARES Act. Among benefits for small businesses, the CARES Act granted $600 a week in addition to state benefits. Introduced in the Republican-controlled House, the HEALS Act would cut federal benefits to $200 a weekly unemployment aid. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin referred to the $600 aid in place since March as “ridiculous” and encouraged people to not go back to work.

Both plans will have far-reaching impacts to Scioto County, where the unemployment rate reached 10.8 percent in June, down from 11.7 percent in May. Whatever the benefits may be, the stimulus would go further in the county than any other county in the state.

According to SmartAsset, a financial technology company, the cost of living in the county is $30,838. Many southern Ohio counties are within this range, making up five of the top 10 counties. This amount is calculated by what is needed to pay for basic needs like food, clothing, and housing throughout the course of a year.

These benefits vary by state, with unemployed Ohioans receiving $344 a week from the state between April 30 and May 31 according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Under this form of unemployment, this amount would be sent out for 26 weeks.

Based on these two acts with the state benefits, unemployed people in Ohio could receive anywhere from $544 to $944 a week to as late as the start of next year. Extended over the course of a year, that sums up to $28,288 under the HEALS Act and $49,088 through the Heroes Act.

The county’s median income of $38,978 is equivalent to higher incomes in cities like Columbus and Cincinnati. The cost of living is up to 6 percent higher, depending on the number of adults and children, in the capital and 5 percent compared to Cincinnati.

To have the same standard of living in Portsmouth as in New York City with one adult and three children it would require an income of $57,201, an increase of 47 percent.

Due to the pandemic, additional unemployment programs like Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Federal-State Extended Benefits (EB), and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) were created by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

PUA exists for self-employed and freelancers who lost their job, while PEUC would extend the $344 for up to 13 weeks and then another under 20 weeks under EB.

By Patrick Keck

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.