How Will Stimulus Affect Unemployment Benefits?

Wednesday, February 25th 2009, 9:56 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The economy in crisis is forcing more people in Oklahoma to apply for unemployment.  But, there is some confusion about how the stimulus will affect their benefits.

Rhonda Packer spends most of her days perusing the classifieds and polishing her resume. It has been her routine since she lost her job at a local casino a year ago.  She has not had any luck finding work.

"It's overwhelming.  It's really overwhelming.  But, I'm hanging in, and I know that I'm going to get something sooner or later," said Rhonda Packer.

Rhonda says her spirits were lifted a bit when President Obama signed the Stimulus Bill last week.  But, like many in her situation, she remains confused about what it will mean for her.

"I can't imagine all the people just like me who are getting ready to run out, and they don't have a job, they don't have anything to fall back on. What's going to happen?" said Rhonda Packer.

According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, there will be two big changes for those on unemployment.

First, benefits will be increased by $25 per person per week.  Those extra payments will begin in March.         

Second, the deadline to file for an emergency unemployment compensation claim has been pushed back to December 31st.  The benefit is meant to help workers who have already exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Rhonda says the extra money each week will help as she continues to search for clerical and customer service jobs.  She admits she gets discouraged, but believes she's due for her big break.

"That's the only way you can think to get through this.  Never give up. Something will happen. It is rough, but we'll come through," said Rhonda Packer.

While the deadline did change to apply for Emergency Unemployment Compensation, it did not change the number of weeks a person can receive that benefit.