TULSA, Okla. — Many Oklahomans are still struggling to receive their unemployment benefits.
Di Klepac has been out of work for a while. It took her months to recover from an assault last year. Just as she was ready for a full-time job again, the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“I cringe because I only have one little bitty air conditioner on right now," Klepac said. "I cringe. I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, should I turn the other one on?’ Because I don’t know what the bill’s going to be like and I don’t know if I’m going to have any money coming in.”
It’s been three weeks since she received money from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fund. Klepac said this isn’t the first time this has happened. She first applied on April 4 and went weeks without receiving her payment. She said she tried calling the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, but was just sent in circles.
“They said someone is going to call me within 72 hours," she said. "It was over 144 hours before someone finally called me.”
She finally received her money on May 11, only after making phone calls to her local representatives. She thought everything was fine until she re-applied. And now, more than three weeks later, she’s in the same boat again.
“I’m confused, I’m stressed out," she said. "I don’t understand. I just want them to do their job and pay us like they said they’re going to pay us."
We went to work, reaching out to OESC's interim executive director Shelley Zumwalt. She said Klepac should receive her money Thursday night. She said she authorized her account to file weekly.
Zumwalt said she’s trying to fix the problems at the state’s unemployment system. One way they’re doing that is by implementing a code system if there is something wrong with a claim. They’ll send a code to the person who filed, explaining why their claim was flagged and they’ll then give that code to an OESC phone operator.
“They’re armed with information," Zumwalt said. "They have an idea of what’s going on and then they can go forth and have a quick, but also successful call with those agents.”
OESC processed 71 percent of its backlog since last weekend and hopes to get almost all of it done over this weekend. But, the work won’t be over.
“That is my promise of progress as we work through this," Zumwalt said. "And we’re committed to making sure that everyone who is due those benefits gets them.”
Even though her problem is solved for now, Klepac is worried about what will happen when she files next week.
“The only thing that’s comforting is to know that I am not the only one going through this," Klepac said.
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