Oklahoma Lawmakers Urged To Accept Millions of Dollars To Help Unemployed

Monday, April 4th 2011, 5:47 pm
By: News On 6

Tara Vreeland, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Oklahoma's economy may be steadily recovering but thousands of Oklahomans are still without jobs. The unemployment rate in Oklahoma was 6.5 percent in February.

Barbara Kragel never thought she'd be in this position.

"I'd rather have a job frankly," she said. "Every time I've had to have another job, I've just walked right into another one. Never had any trouble."

Kragel is 57 years old, living with her sister and unemployed. She lost her accounting job in July 2008. She says she's applied for hundreds of jobs but finally had to file for unemployment.

"At first, you start losing your confidence," she said.

"You know, it can keep them from total financial collapse. But it is not the way anyone wants to be living," David Blatt said.

David Blatt, with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, says the state needs to take advantage of an estimated $100 million offered to help the unemployed. He says it is the right thing for Oklahoma to do.

"Unemployment benefits don't in any way make up for the full amount of earnings," Blatt said. "It's a couple hundred dollars a week at the most."

The money comes from an unemployment insurance extension, called Extended Benefits. That's 13 additional weeks of help for the nearly 30,000 unemployed Oklahomans.

But Oklahoma is one of nine states that has not accepted the relief.

3/11/2011 Related Story: Oklahoma Rejects Millions Of Dollars Intended To Help Unemployed

"If it's allocated and on the table for people in Oklahoma, to help people in Oklahoma," Kragel said.

As for Kragel, she says she's put job searching on the back burner for now. She isn't currently collecting unemployment and she's been able to lean on her family, but others aren't so lucky.

"Of course I wouldn't get any of it, but they could at least get some of it and give it to some of these poor people in McCurtain County and Le Fleur County that's still up there in the 10 percent unemployment," she said.

Oklahoma law prevents our state from accepting the money until our unemployment rate reaches a certain level.  The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission says we are no where near reaching that threshold. 

Oklahoma ranks 10th for the lowest unemployment rates.