The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported it has cleared 71% of the backlogged claims in place when its new leader took over a week ago.
OESC Interim Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said that equates to 180,000 weeks of claims that have been paid out.
"Which is kind of a weird way to say it, right? But what that means is there was people that were waiting on eight weeks, 10 weeks, you know, multiple weeks of pay, and we processed all of those at the same time so that we could get them those funds that they so desperately need," Zumwalt said.
The agency reported claims processed this week resulted in an additional $69 million in benefits being paid out.
Zumwalt said the problem was the agency relied on people to process claims and solve problems, a system that couldn’t handle the COVID-19-driven surge in unemployed Oklahomans trying to file claims with a clunky website.
Going forward, the goal is an intuitive online system and human intervention only when necessary.
"I think what people expect from state agencies at this point is that they can interact online and go in and get stuff done quickly, and having to call a number or do things like that isn’t really the way that we function as a society anymore. So, we want to deliver that for them," Zumwalt said.
The week before Zumwalt took over, OESC commissioners handed off the agency’s claims processing and other tasks to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Director Steven Harpe told them OMES could clear the backlog within four weeks.