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Eight Days After Relief Bill Signing, Some Unemployed Oklahomans Still Waiting For Answers, Payments

Facebook / Oklahoma Employment Security Commission
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Director Shelley Zumwalt in a video update posted to social media on Saturday, Jan. 2.

President Trump signed a COVID-19 relief bill providing for certain unemployment benefits two Sundays ago, but the state of Oklahoma says it still hasn't received the federal funding or guidance necessary to pay out many claims.

"We will have to receive multiple guidance documents from [the U.S. Department of Labor] to administer these programs," said Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Director Shelley Zumwalt in a video posted to social media Saturday evening. 

"While, yes, we have received one document and we are working on putting all of that information into pre-production, there will be multiple documents that we will need to make sure that we can execute on these programs and get benefits delivered to you," Zumwalt said.

In the Saturday video, Zumwalt details how to file claims for various benefits programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and State Extended Benefits (SEB), and encourages eligible claimants to file as soon as possible so disbursements can be made soon after funds and guidance are available.

In a previous video posted Wednesday, Zumwalt said she and the agency were unable to answer many questions.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the questions you guys have having to do with eligibility or benefits being exhausted are the same questions I have," she said, "and we have to wait to receive guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor before we can answer those questions."

As far as how long payments would take to reach claimants, Zumwalt said Wednesday, "Basically, we don't have a timeline right now."

OESC said Monday they had no updates beyond Zumwalt's Saturday video.

The state abruptly announced the end of SEB payments in early December. At a press conference, Zumwalt then promised $400 payments to about 120,000 qualifying Oklahomans before canceling those distributions as well.

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