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People waiting months for unemployment benefits

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 19:45:24-04

Frustration... Anger... Hopelessness. Words many Oklahomans use to describe waiting for help with their unemployment claims.

Some have tried unsuccessfully to file claims since the pandemic began, and others have waited weeks to talk to someone who can fix an issue with their claim.

2 Works for You is working to get answers about why so many can't seem to get help from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

"March 20th is when he got laid off," Kasie Anderson said.

When he lost his job, Kasie's husband, Zach, quickly filed for unemployment. But so far, he hasn't seen a dime.

"Three months is a long time for somebody to have to wait for their money," Anderson said. "I mean, it should have been solved the first couple of times that I called."

Like so many others, this husband and father of two has tried getting answers from Oklahoma's Employment Security Commission about what's holding up his benefits.

"And then when we see the news, and it's like all this stuff has already been taken care of," Anderson said. "People are gettin' their unemployment, and we're like no. No there's still tons of people that have not gotten their unemployment at all."

Susan Cook has waited 11 weeks.

"It's just a stress. It's a strain and it's an aggravation," Cook said. "My blood pressure goes up so high whenever I have to deal with this."

She has savings to fall back on, but the Andersons, like many waiting for benefits, are now behind on bills even though Zach's gone back to work.

"We had to [sighs] both of our cars. We had to call and like beg them to defer our payments, the electric, our utilities and stuff," Kasie said. "We're like hey, can you guys push us to the next month?"

Shelley Zumwalt is OESC's interim executive director.

"We have to make sure that you know you're entitled to benefits, the information you're giving us is accurate, and that we can identify that you are you and you are not a fraudulent actor trying to get the benefits that are entitled to a legitimate claimant," Zumwalt said.

Zumwalt said OESC is working on a number of ways to help those who have issues with their claims.

"We have moved more tier two agents to first call resolution," she said.

But Zumwalt admits she can't say exactly when everyone's claim will be processed and paid.

"With every ounce of my being, we are trying to make sure that those people that have been waiting all those weeks get some resolution," she said.

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