Oklahomans Wait For Unemployment Benefits, Struggle To Apply

Thursday, April 9th 2020, 4:05 pm
By: News On 6, Chinh Doan

The number of unemployed people across the state is now more than 200,000, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. 

OESC reported 51,124 people filed initial claims last week. 

News On 6 talked to three employees from the same business who shared their different experiences while trying to get unemployment benefits.

They said they all applied three and a half weeks ago when Juniper Restaurant in Downtown Tulsa closed because of the pandemic.

Erik Shepherd said he started getting state benefits two weeks ago, and this week, he's among the first to also get $600 weekly under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

“What I'm getting is particularly good, compared to friends of mine in the industry, who are getting far less,” said Shepherd. “I have a roommate who's getting $100 a week and another person who's getting like $200, another person $300. That's not livable." 

David Kloehr said his application status shows he was approved for benefits that equal about half of what he used to make, but he doesn't know when he'll get the money.

Related Story - Unemployment Claims Climbs Over 200,000 Amid Oklahoma's Coronavirus Outbreak 

“The sites, they crash, and I've been having a lot of friends that have been having the same issue with the websites crashing or getting or getting an actual human on the phone,” said Kloehr. 

Michele Duff, a single mom, said her application was denied because she didn't know how to answer the question about whether she has childcare to start work immediately.

Duff said she is waiting to hear back about her appeal and is holding on to hope.

"I expect for everything to be taken care of and for the payments to backdated and I'll get those funds, but in the meantime, it's all up in the air,” said Duff. “What am I supposed to do if I don't have an income?"

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said online is still the best way to apply.

OESC is hosting a virtual town hall at 1 p.m. on April 10. 

OESC said it will contact 30,000 claimants directly about the free event and others may register here

You are asked to provide your name and email address.

Others who would like to participate in the virtual town hall may also do so here.

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