TULSA, Okla. — Thousands of people now look for new ways to make a living. The search comes with a lot of questions which flood the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
A no longer self-employed Phillip Sutterfield says, “Nobody’s ever been through anything like this. No one ever expected anything like this.”
Sutterfield now relies on savings.
“It’s not going to last forever!,” he said.
So, he filed for unemployment.
“I have zero income coming in, being self-employed, that would go a long way to feed my family and make sure we’re staying afloat during this trying time,” Sutterfield said.
Oklahoma unemployment claims hit a historic record.
The executive director for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Robin Roberson, says, “We’re actually at about five times our record, this last week, of all time. We’re just not built for that. Our system’s 30 years old.”
The commission has almost 500 employees across the state and they have to train more.
Roberson says, “It’s a slow process, but we’ll take care of everyone.”
There are two ways to apply: online and by phone, but Roberson hopes most steer clear of the phone lines.
“We really want the phones to be open for people who don’t have access to the internet or computer or those that can’t speak english.”
Some callers wait hours to get through.
Sutterfield got his answer online. He was denied benefits.
He says, “Self-employed people are not eligible.”
That is no longer true because of the newly passed stimulus package. The commission waits for the Department of Labor on how to administer the funds.
Roberson says, “Typically, independent contractors don’t receive any benefits, and since we don’t have any official guidelines, we can’t actually program our system to it yet. That will take some time. People think this is immediate and that it’s happening. It’s not really being administered yet by any states.”
Self-employers will be denied if they apply right now. Roberson says they will announce when they are prepared to start reviewing those applications.
Unemployment claims may be securely filed online at www.unemployment.ok.gov.
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