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Unemployment Claims Should Speed Up Soon


April 16, 2020

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Director Robin Roberson had barely moved into her office when the pandemic hit and the flood gates opened.

“Oklahoma had really low unemployment rates,” said Roberson. “Ten weeks ago, there were 11 employees who processed an average of 1,500 claims a week. As of today, there are approximately 800 people, and we receive 45,000 claims per week.”

She said the website, which was more than 30 years old, was clunky and couldn’t handle the traffic. Now the site has been revamped, but additional changes are still being made.

Tuesday, Sen. James Lankford and Roberson held a Town Hall teleconference to address questions regarding qualifications for unemployment during the current crisis.

Multiple callers stated after completing the online information, they had been denied benefits.

“The old system isn’t designed to handle the special situations presented under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PAU),” said Roberson. “So many will receive a denial letter. A new program will be available next week. The new system will better guide you to the appropriate type of unemployment, such as the PAU.

“The good news for those who have already completed the information, but been denied – your information is already in the system,” she said. “For those filing for unemployment due to COVID-19 circumstances, once approved, your benefits will back-date to when you first filed the claim, but no further back than Feb. 2.”

Lankford and Roberson both urged the public to “hang in there.” Bartenders, servers, any employees whose hours have been drastically reduced due to the pandemic should apply.

Lankford urged all small business owners to take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program. “There are rumors that farmers and ranchers don’t qualify for this program,” he said. “That is not true. A farm is a small business. You still qualify for the PPP.

“We must keep the farmers and ranchers going to feed everyone,” said Lankford.

Self-employed business owners can be better prepared for a Tier-2 unemployment benefits call by having at least six months of their revenue documents available. Also gather quarterly tax filing documents, last year’s income tax filing, any kind of tax documents, copies of driver’s license and Social Security card; the more information provided, the better. Lankford urges businesses to take advantage of PPP and engage with a local banker to help complete the qualification process.

Stimulus checks should begin arriving this week. Lankford said millions of payments will be processed weekly. For those receiving Social Security benefits, there is no need to do anything. If your check is directly deposited to your account, that is also how you will receive your stimulus check. If your check is mailed, then the stimulus check will also be mailed. However, if you do not receive a check within a couple of weeks, he said you can– go to the internal revenue website to find out whether your money has been sent.

Lankford stressed that the site would not ask for banking information to send a direct deposit. Roberson said OESC will never ask for payments of any kind. Both emphasize citizens should be on the lookout for scams.

As the teleconference ended, Lankford reminded everyone to complete the census. “It has been forgotten during this crisis, but it will be essential information as we come out of this situation.”


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