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Deadline Passes For Extended Unemployment Benefits

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As of midnight Saturday, February 27, no new EUC claims will be paid until a new deadline is approved. This could affect about 2,700 Oklahomans expected to exhaust their benefits this week. As of midnight Saturday, February 27, no new EUC claims will be paid until a new deadline is approved. This could affect about 2,700 Oklahomans expected to exhaust their benefits this week.
Joanna Martin is a single mom and has been collecting unemployment benefits from the state since the end of August, while she looks for a job. Finding one, she says, has not been easy. Joanna Martin is a single mom and has been collecting unemployment benefits from the state since the end of August, while she looks for a job. Finding one, she says, has not been easy.
Martin has wiped out her savings account and only has enough money to get by for two more months. Martin has wiped out her savings account and only has enough money to get by for two more months.
"If they don't do the extension, I'm going to be in big trouble," said Martin. "If they don't do the extension, I'm going to be in big trouble," said Martin.

By Jennifer Loren, Oklahoma Impact Team

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The U.S. Senate did not extend the filing deadline for federal extended unemployment benefits on Friday. That leaves those who exhaust their regular state or federal extended unemployment claims this week unable to file for more benefits, according to a release by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

The deadline extension affects the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program that provides additional unemployment benefits for those who have used up their regular state unemployment benefits.

As of midnight Saturday, February 27, no new EUC claims will be paid until a new deadline is approved. This could affect about 2,700 Oklahomans expected to exhaust their benefits this week.

The Employment Security Commission expects the deadline to be extended when the senators return to work next week, and they are encouraging Oklahomans to go ahead and apply for the extended benefits so their claims can be processed as soon as possible once a new deadline is established.

It is important to note this only affects those who exhaust their regular benefits on or after February 27.

Unemployment claimants are first eligible for up to 26 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits. Once those benefits are exhausted, they can apply for an additional 20 weeks.

After those benefits are exhausted there are two more tiers of unemployment benefits that may be claimed – an additional 14 weeks, then an additional 13 weeks.

For one Green Country mother, this deadline brings a frightening reality -- no money to pay the bills.

Joanna Martin is a single mom. She bought her home in Claremore last year, just a couple of months before her employer cut half their staff and she was laid off.

"It's been a roller coaster. It's been a very scary roller coaster. One minute everything's okay and we're going to be alright and then reality hits and it gets scary," said Martin.

Martin has been collecting unemployment benefits from the state since the end of August, while she looks for a job. Finding one, she says, has not been easy. The pool of applicants is flooded.

"I've always gotten, ‘we really, really liked you. Thank you for coming. We're going to go with this person,'" said Martin.

But it has been 26 weeks, the maximum amount of time out-of-work Oklahomans can collect state unemployment benefits. Martin has wiped out her savings account and only has enough money to get by for two more months. 

After that, she doesn't know what will happen to her or her son.

"I try really hard not to think about it because I can't let him know that mom's scared," said Martin.

Martin hoped the federal government would pay her unemployment as part of the extensions enacted last year. But the deadline to file for one of those extensions is this Saturday, and she can't re-apply until state benefits run out. 

Martin will get her last state-issued check on Tuesday, just three days too late.

"If they don't do the extension, I'm going to be in big trouble," said Martin.

In Washington, Democratic Senator Harry Reid tried to extend the deadline, but Thursday night the measure was blocked by what he calls partisan politics.

In a statement Reid said it is irresponsible for Congress not to act and immoral. 

Joanna Martin agrees.

"They have no clue. They act like they do. And while the Republicans want this, the Democrats want that. Well, I just want to feed myself. I just want to put a roof over my head," said Martin.

An estimated 2,700 Oklahomans will be affected by this deadline. State officials say all of them should go ahead and file for the extension so their account will be ready if Congress extends the deadline.

Senator Reid plans to pick the issue back up on Monday.

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