Many Oklahomans say they’re struggling to get unemployment benefits


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Many people say they’re having problems getting unemployment benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traci Melton says she hasn’t been able to do her weekly report for unemployment for three weeks.

“I spent three hours on the phone, nobody ever came to the phone, my phone got hot, so I ended up hanging up after three hours. That following Tuesday, same thing again,” she said.
Melton says the website keeps crashing.
“[It] wouldn’t let me do anything, giving me an error message, saying the website was down, error had occurred, so I just gave up with it,” she said.
She hasn’t been able to get a debit card yet, which has the unemployment benefit funds.
Others say they’ve gotten their debit card with no money on it and have even been losing money trying to check it. 
“I have checked the balance every day; it still shows a zero balance, and at that time, I didn’t realize that they were charging me 25 cents every time I check my balance, so now I’m in the negative already,” Melba Kay Buchanan said.
Buchanan says she has called several lawmakers’ offices for help and hasn’t heard back. She’s been trying to get in contact with the unemployment office for about a week.
“You call at 8 o’clock in the morning, and you’re out on hold for eight hours or you are disconnected. This has happened every day,” she said.
Bonnita Flores said she needs the unemployment money to make ends meet.

“I have kids, I have bills, I have car payments. Right now, you know, it’s going to be hard to find a job because of what’s going on,” Flores said.

“I have utilities to pay, I have a car payment to pay, I do like to eat. It’s just the stress of not knowing why it’s not deposited, and not even being able to get through to unemployment to find out why,” Buchanan said.

About a week ago, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office sent us a statement that reads in part:

“The governor’s office has been working in close coordination with OESC to ensure they have the resources and manpower needed to respond to the growing number of claims for unemployment.”

It goes on to say:
“The governor’s team has also been working to leverage resources across state agencies to address technology needs OESC may have, by providing a development team to ensure the agency’s systems are able to stay up and running during the uptake in web and phone traffic, and connect them with more state employees to help fill in gaps as needed.”

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