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After Trump's Delay In Signing Relief Bill, Oklahoma Waiting For Federal Guidance On Unemployment

Twitter / @oescnews
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Director Shelley Zumwalt (right) with State Rep. Andy Fugate (D-OKC) at a claims processing event on July 1st.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the bipartisan deal that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown.

The massive bill includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as an increase in food stamp benefits.

The signing Sunday, at his private club in Florida came amid escalating criticism over his eleventh-hour demands for larger, $2,000 relief checks and scaled-back spending even though the bill had already passed the House and Senate by wide margins. The bill was passed with what lawmakers had thought was Trump’s blessing, and after months of negotiations with his administration.

His foot-dragging resulted in a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions struggling to make ends meet and threatened a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic.. But signing the bill into law prevents another crisis of Trump’s own creation and ends a standoff with his own party during the final days of his administration.

In a late Sunday Facebook post following the president's signing of the legislation, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said, "The agency is waiting for details from the U.S. DOL, but will move as quickly as possible to distribute the funds once this guidance is received."

"At this point, we can advise claimants that they do not need to file a new UI, PEUC or PUA claim if they have an existing one, even if their benefits exhausted earlier this year," the statement reads. "However, we are still awaiting guidance and additional information about requirements from the Federal DOL that will allow us to start work on updating our systems to pay out these new benefits."

It's the latest development in a rollercoaster month for out-of-work Oklahomans, after the state abruptly announced the end of the state extended benefits assistance program in early December. Agency director Shelley Zumwalt then promised $400 payments to about 120,000 qualifying Oklahomans, before canceling those distributions as well.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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