TULSA, Okla. — More than 30,000 Oklahomans filed for unemployment last week. Many are still waiting to get their unemployment benefits.
Audrey Starkey lost her job at an energy company on May 15. She immediately created an unemployment profile with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Now, more than two weeks later, she still hasn’t been able to file a claim, and the link to start a new claim is missing from her profile.
“I feel very lost by a system that is meant to help for these kinds of situations," she said.
Starkey is a single mother and is starting to worry. She said she has enough to pay her bills through June, but after that, she’s out of money.
“I just can’t imagine the amount of people that are in the same position I am," she said. "Literally weeks away from losing their apartment, losing their homes, losing their cars because the system is failing.”
Starkey said she’s used the online chat tool, but the representative helping her says “I don’t know” and that there’s not much they can do. Each day she waits on the phone, sometimes for close to two hours, and is still not given answers. She is told a help ticket will be filed and she can expect a phone call in four to eight weeks.
“I don’t understand why they continue to tell you to login to the website or call the phone number when you do call the phone number and they tell you they can’t help," Starkey said. "What is it for?”
OESC announced Monday it processed about 29 percent of the claims in its backlog this weekend. It’s working on ways to speed up the process so people can get their money. It’s also adding more workers on the direct phone lines to help people like Starkey.
“So, on first contact people can have a resolution," said Shelley Zumwalt, Interim Director of OESC. "We’re putting the people that have the knowledge on those phones so that you guys will not hear someone will call you back.”
Starkey said she’s going to keep calling, but she’s starting to feel helpless.
“It’s very depressing," Starkey said. "It’s very hard to not get overwhelmed and wonder what’s going to happen.”
OESC said it does expect call times to increase slightly this week, but hopes to get through all of the claims in the backlog by this time next week.
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