Thousands file for unemployment in Oklahoma

Thousands file for unemployment in Oklahoma-4/7/2020

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) -Many people say they're having trouble accessing Oklahoma's unemployment system.

In the past three weeks, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has received more than 135,000 unemployment claims.

Sonia Flores, has been trying to file a claim, but like many is finding it hard to get ahold of someone.

“When I call the number it just always hangs up on me, because it says it can’t take my phone call at this minute,” said Flores. "And it happens everyday, even when you call right at 8AM, there’s nobody to talk to.

According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, by noon Monday, they had already received over 40K calls.

“The phone cue right now is very lengthy,” said Robin Roberson, executive Director for OESC. “Which is why we’re encouraging people to go to the website to apply and look at the FAQ’s. Our cue at anytime will have 6 to 900 people in the cue at one time. So those are just kind of rolling through the day.”

The executive Director for OESC, says they’ve even brought in people from other departments to help answer calls.

“Governor Stitt’s giving us about 130 additional staff from other agencies, like the Department of Transportation, even the state auditors office,” said Roberson. “We have people coming over to help us answer the phones but their having to go through some training as well.”

With the CARES act recently signed into law, people who wouldn’t normally be eligible for unemployment are, like independent contractors.

“If you receive a denial, and you’re an independent contractor, don’t worry about it,” said Roberson. “We’ll backdate it as soon as we are able to administer that here. And if you feel like you’ve been wrongly denied, then we have an appeals process which is pretty simple to follow as well.”

Part of the CARES act includes an extra 600 dollars a week for those who are eligible for unemployment due to the pandemic.

“There will be some claimants that actually will make more money on unemployment with the 600 than they were when they were working,” said Roberson. “That $600 is across the board, so it doesn’t matter how much you were or weren’t making prior to. Everyone is getting that additional $600 per week, which is fantastic.”

Roberson advises people to go online to OESC.OK.GOV if they have a question. Or you can email their help desk at OESC.Helps@oesc.state.ok.us.

The OESC have extended their employees hours to try and catch up with the influx of claims. However currently, there’s no estimate on when that will be.

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