From Ohio History Central
With the beginning of the Great Depression in October 1929, many Ohioans became unemployed as businesses attempted to avoid bankruptcy by either firing or laying off workers. By 1932, 37.3 percent of Ohio workers were unemployed. Thousands of other workers were underemployed as businesses reduced hours and pay to help the companies remain solvent.
On April 9, 1931, the Ohio legislature created the Ohio Unemployment Insurance Commission. The legislature charged the commission to "investigate the possibility of setting up unemployment reserves or insurance funds to provide against the risk of unemployment." The commission released its final report on October 26, 1932. The commissioners called for the creation of a state unemployment insurance program that the Ohio Unemployment Insurance Commission would administer. This plan would require every business in Ohio to contribute to the fund. Due to fears that the increased tax burden on businesses might bankrupt some companies, the Ohio legislature refused to act on the commission's proposal immediately.
On December 16, 1936, the Ohio legislature did enact a law, the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Law, designed to provide unemployment insurance for Ohio's workers. A three member commission would administer the program. One commissioner was to represent the employers, another commissioner was to protect the interests of the workers, and the final commissioner was to take into consideration the needs of the wider public. The commissioners were to distribute funds to the state's unemployed workers. The commission operated until February 22, 1939, when it was replaced with the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation.
The Ohio legislature's passage of the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Law illustrated the increasing desire of many American citizens for a more active government role in their lives. Rather than preferring a government that remained out of their affairs, many Americans, including Ohioans, developed new expectations for their government during the Great Depression. They increasingly believed that federal, state, and local governments had a duty to aid their citizens.