The state unemployment agency will hold two more days of in-person claim processing events in Tulsa next week.
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reached capacity for this week’s event at Expo Square before 6:30 Wednesday morning — more than 800 slots over two days filled before the doors even opened.
Jason Ward and Michelle Boyce got in line at 4 a.m. Wednesday and snagged the 135th spot out of 400 initially on offer for the day. Boyce was put on leave from her job at a casino in March because of her medical risk for serious COVID complications.
Her unemployment funds have been going to a debit card she can’t register. The couple has five teenagers at home and has had a car repossessed and is facing eviction.
"Luckily, we had two vehicles that was already paid for. Otherwise, we'd be vehicle-less," Ward said.
"The only reason we've been eating is because John 3:16's been giving us groceries. Otherwise, we would have no food whatsoever because the state will not give us any help. Because it shows that we're getting help when we're not getting help," Boyce said.
Ward and Boyce have spent all the money they had been saving for their wedding, and the family has turned to odd jobs and selling items to scrape by.
Dexter Goodman snagged a spot for Thursday. He’s made cabinets for 30 years but quit his job in April to avoid getting sick when his employer kept going full-steam ahead. Goodman said he hasn’t been able to get benefits and isn’t optimistic he’ll get help.
"No, I have no faith in our government whatsoever. None. This is just something to pacify people so they'll shut up," Goodman said.
Christine Kosko managed to get one of the last slots available for Thursday. She’s been out of work about two months after her call center offered her a choice: take a $4 an hour pay cut or get laid off.
Kosko said her unemployment claim has shown as pending this whole time.
Asked how she's been getting by since then, Kosko said, "Friends, family. That's about it. I had some money saved up, but now it's getting cut short."
Deon Andree was one of the first turned away after OESC ran out of tickets. He lost one of his two health care jobs and had his hours cut at the other.
Andree has a wife, 2-year-old and a child on the way, and he hasn’t received any benefits for about a month after being paid an initial week.
"I've definietly got to keep faith and stay strong. The Lord's making a way, so He's going to be the person that I stand on. So, even today with me not getting hlep, my help comes from Him anyway. So, I don't expect Uncle Sam to save me. He will," Andree said.
OESC will start giving out passes for next week’s Wednesday and Thursday claim event Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the fairgrounds.