MONEY running out for disabled state workers

Saturday, August 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The fund that pays weekly disability checks to permanently disabled Oklahomans may be running out of money.

Letters have been sent to more than 1,800 disabled Oklahomans informing them that the Multiple Injury Trust Fund might be out of money by the middle of September.

The letter said revenue for the Multiple Injury Trust Fund varies widely and is received monthly or quarterly. ``This makes it very difficult to accurately forecast any interruption of benefits until shortly before the actual crisis is upon us,'' it said.

``Due to inadequate funding, the Multiple Injury Trust Fund continues to struggle to pay benefits timely. We here at the MITF greatly appreciate your patience during the last temporary delay in June,'' said the letter from the fund's interim special counsel, Richard Cole.

In June, the board of the state Insurance Fund voted to make $2 million available to the Multiple Injury Trust Fund to pay overdue benefits and to continue weekly payments through mid-September for Oklahomans with work-related disabilities.

Trust fund officials said at the time that the fund wasn't receiving enough money from assessments on workers' compensation insurance premiums to make payments through the fiscal year.

Weekly payments to the Oklahoma workers had ceased earlier in June, but resumed when the insurance fund board acted.

Weekly checks for totally disabled people whose injuries are job-related range from $173 to $205 a week.

Charlie Powers of Moore, a recipient of the weekly payment, said fund administrators had cautioned once or twice in recent years that recipients might miss a payment, but it never happened.

``We missed three in June, but they made it up,'' Powers said.

Last month, House Speaker Larry Adair asked Gov. Frank Keating to add the issue to the agenda of the special legislative session, which resumes Sept. 7. John Cox, the governor's press secretary, said Keating will decide next week whether to place the issue on the agenda.