“I’m out of food, I’m out of insulin, I’m out of gas,” OESC adds day to unemployment claim assistance event due to desperate need

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MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Due to desperation in the pandemic, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is adding at least one additional date to its unemployment claim filing assistance event.

What started as a two-day event in Midwest City has now expanded to at least 7 days there and two more in Tulsa.

Thousands have been helped but thousands more are still waiting.

Another day – another large group of folks desperate to get in the doors because they say both time and resources are running out.

“I’m out of food, I’m out of insulin, I’m out of gas,” said Janet Weiss as she waited in line early Wednesday morning. 

“Right now I’ve been doing odd jobs as I’m able to. I’ve been dog-sitting through the rover app,” said Allison Martin as she waited for assistance.  “I do some painting so I’ve been selling paintings and things like that.” 

Two women with different stories – sharing a struggle.

Weiss is diabetic – high risk for COVID-19 complications.

Martin moved to Little Rock with her husband at the start of the year – buying a new home and securing her dream job with a major non-profit – only to be laid off due to COVID-19.

“I filed for unemployment in Arkansas but because I hadn’t been there long enough my wages were based on Oklahoma and they told me I needed to file in Oklahoma,” Martin said. 

So she drove overnight and joined at least 1,000 receiving help in booked claim processing events Wednesday and Thursday.

Many others still showed up Wednesday – given passes for Monday morning – as more days are added.

“If could do it 24-hours I would but then I probably wouldn’t have staff to follow me down that road,” said interim OESC Director Shelley Zumwalt. 

She and her staff are working 15-hour days and trying to resolve issues in the system.

For instance they are now delaying direct deposits 24 hours.

“We identified some similarities in investigations that we had done revealing that maybe, possibly fraudulent claims through the direct deposit route were higher than anticipated,” Zumwalt said. 

Weiss and Martin are among the many trying and struggling to find work in the midst of COVID-19.

“Unfortunately with things getting considerably worse again no one’s really hiring anymore and the ones that are hiring – it’s things that I’m not qualified for,” said Martin. 

They’re asking for life-sustaining funds – and understanding. 

“It’s not just people trying to take advantage of the system,” Martin said. “It’s people losing their livelihoods and not being able to figure it out – and clearly with the number of people that have come – a lot of people are having these issues so just be kind and empathetic toward people dealing with these things right now.”

Tulsa’s events will be Wednesday and Thursday next week at the Tulsa Expo Center.

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