Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked the federal government to provide an additional $300 in unemployment benefits for out-of-work Oklahomans.
The governor’s office submitted a grant application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If approved, Stitt said FEMA will fund the $300 per week benefit, and Oklahoma will fulfill the 25% state match through existing unemployment benefits.
In order to qualify for benefits under the Lost Wages Assistance program, Oklahomans must prove they are unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of COVID-19, and the state must confirm they are receiving at least $100 in state benefits.
At the end of July, $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits expired. Oklahoma House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said it was disappointing Stitt was signing up for a 50% reduction in federal benefits.
"It seems that the governor hopes he can enroll Oklahoma into this program, and then our state will be omitted from the higher unemployment benefit in the stimulus package Congress passes. Two days before the White House announced the federal unemployment program, Gov. Stitt said Oklahomans didn’t need additional federal assistance. Unless he has changed his mind, it makes sense that this reduced-rate program is an attempt to limit the federal assistance Oklahomans receive," Virgin said in a statement.
Stitt touted the state's early reopening as helping many Oklahomans return to work, but acknowledged many unemployed are still seeking help.
The benefits would be retroactive to Aug. 1 and run through Dec. 27.