New Leader of Oklahoma Unemployment Agency Says They're Catching up on Claims Backlog

Jun 2, 2020

The interim head of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Monday they’re making good progress getting through a backlog of claims.

The goal was to get through 25% of them by last Friday after the Office of Management and Enterprise Services took over processing and other tasks. OESC Interim Director Shelley Zumwalt said they’ve exceeded that goal.

"We processed roughly 29% of the claims backlog, which includes both PUA and regular unemployment benefits, and that percentage is likely a low estimate," Zumwalt said.

PUA stands for pandemic unemployment assistance, the temporary aid for gig workers and independent contractors who aren’t eligible for traditional unemployment benefits.

Zumwalt said agents have removed flags from claims when they don’t affect eligibility and retooled questions on the online application so they’re easier to answer.

"This means that for the first time in four, six, maybe even eight weeks, some people will have the ability to file for multiple back weeks of pay that they previously had not been able to file for," Zumwalt said.

The agency has been dealing with a staggering increase in unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.