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Ohio nears 1M unemployment claims over 5 weeks amid virus

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly 1 million people have filed unemployment claims in the past five weeks as Ohio’s stay-at-home order continues to depress the economy and lead to widespread layoffs, the state reported Thursday.
For the week ending April 18, 109,369 people filed jobless claims, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That’s down from the 158,678 claims filed for the previous week.
The numbers announced Thursday pushed total claims to 964,566, or almost 250,000 more than the total number of claims over the past two years. The state says it has now distributed more than $926 million in unemployment checks to more than 376,000 claimants.
Nationally, more than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, according to the government. Roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began sending millions of U.S. workers home.
Other virus-related developments in Ohio:
ECONOMY
The approximately $2.7 billion in Ohio’s rainy day fund won’t be enough to balance the state budget over the next 15 months, according to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who said Wednesday that nearly twice that much will be needed to cover the budget hole created by the pandemic’s impact on state revenues, Gongwer News Service reported.
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PRISONS
Twelve Ohio prison inmates and one guard have died from COVID-19, according to the state prisons agency. More than 2,000 inmates out of about 2,500 at Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive to date, while more than 1,500 of about 2,000 have tested positive at Pickaway Correctional Institution, where eight of the inmates who died were housed.
Inmates complain they aren’t being told their test results and have limited masks and supplies of soap. Prison guards, who are also seeing high infection rates, say they’re being forced to return to work quickly after recovery and are working 16-hour shifts because of the short staffing.
At the Marion facility, the warden said in a Tuesday message to inmates that more soap and toothpaste was being distributed, and that a large shipment of hygiene supplies was expected Friday.
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CASES
More than 14,000 cases of the virus have been reported statewide, including 610 deaths and 2,800 hospitalizations, according to figures released Wednesday.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
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LAWMAKER’S COMMENTS
Gov. Mike DeWine, Senate President Larry Obhof and Ohio Republican Party chairwoman Jane Timken were among GOP officials who late Wednesday criticized Facebook posts by a state senator and his wife that likened the state health director’s Tuesday comments about immunity certificates to proclamations of Nazi Germany. The health director, Dr. Amy Acton, is Jewish.
“This is a time for cooperation, not inflammatory and overblown rhetoric,” Obhof said.
The lawmaker, Sen. Andrew Brenner, a Republican who represents portions of central Ohio, said his comments had been misreported but apologized to Acton.
“I am confident that Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton have Ohio’s best interests in mind, and I appreciate their hard work and efforts in finding a responsible path forward,” Brenner said in a prepared statement released Wednesday night.
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CHARITY
A Cincinnati restaurateur will donate $10,000 to a southeast Ohio food pantry from sales of a steak created in honor of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who was expected to be the first player picked in Thursday evening’s NFL draft. The Jeff Ruby Foundation said a check will go to the Athens County Food Pantry, which Burrow talked about during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. The Cincinnati Bengals are expected pick the Athens County native.
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Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.