Good Question Answered About Unemployment Help

Thursday, December 11th 2008, 5:51 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- In Oklahoma, the latest figures available show nearly 21,000 people filed for unemployment benefits going into December. But many people aren't getting the help they need, at least not right away.

A viewer, Nicole, e-mailed The News On 6 saying "I need help in the matter, and need answers."

She isn't the only one wondering what's causing the delay.

"I'm just without money.  And I'm upset," said Odessa Burkhalter, Tulsa resident.

Burkhalter's been checking her mailbox everyday for nearly two weeks and she still hasn't received the new unemployment debit card she's been expecting.

When you're unemployed, it's a long time to wait.

"It doesn't take that long for mail to get to you. Not 10 days," said Burkhalter.

On December 1st, the state transitioned from paper checks to debit cards to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing and postage.

The problem is many folks like Burkhalter still haven't received the unemployment benefits they've been counting on.

"It's a very big struggle for a lot of people. Because you have people with children who need to buy food for their kids and they cannot do it," said Burkhalter.

The state employment security commission says a vendor sent out most of the debit cards on December 1st and they should have arrived in homes within three to six days.

They're working now to determine what is causing the delays.

With so many new people, like oil field machinist David Ethridge, packing state offices to apply for unemployment, it's hoped the problems with the transition can be fixed, so others can get their benefits on time.

"I've got two small children I have to raise, take care of by myself.  So that's real important right now, keeping them fed and seeing what I can do for them for Christmas and such," said Ethridge.

As for Burkhalter, she has utility bills due and Christmas coming up. She'll keep checking her mailbox and hoping she and others don't have to wait much longer.

"As far as I'm concerned, right now, I have been able to manage, but if they keep holding my money, I'm not going to be able to keep managing," said Burkhalter.

The state says 14,738 debit cards were supposed to be sent out December 1st. As of Thursday morning, more than 8,100 of them had been activated.