Hundreds line up for second day to try to get help with unemployment claims

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MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – For a second day in a row, Oklahomans lined up overnight at a Midwest City convention center, hoping to get help filing their unemployment claims.

This is all part of a multi-day event put on by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission as thousands of people have run into issues like fraud while trying to file for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, many people are finally going to get paid after months without income.

Those in line are hot, they’re tired, but they say they have to do it. Some of them say they can’t even provide for their family right now.

“I ended up having to send my daughter away for a couple of weeks, she’s 10-years-old, to my sister in Houston so that I could survive,” said Dentra Thornton.  

Thornton hasn’t been paid since April. With no income, she says there’s no way to feed her daughter. 

“I really do miss her. She’s my heart so I really do need, I need some money,” she said. 

Thornton was one of hundreds sent home Wednesday after the 500 claimant cutoff but got a pass that guaranteed help on Thursday. 

“I’ve been here since 4 o’clock this morning,” said a woman named April in line. 

“I get the overwhelming part, but I still think they need to step it up,” said Ryan Jones, who was in line both days. “Start at 5 for people. Quit sending people home, work until midnight. I know it stinks, I get it, but help these people out, including myself.”

Interim OESC Director Shelley Zumwalt says issues the first day ranged from poor WiFi to a shortage of interpreters. 

She says it’s an imperfect process but proving more effective. 

“I think that face-to-face contact means so much to people, especially in the times we’re in right now, as long as we’re being safe, we’re making sure we use precautions,” said Zumwalt. 

Claimants say they’ve struggled to get help online and on the phone. They also say fraud has been a big problem. 

“Someone stole my Social Security number. It’s the reason why I’m here,” Jones said. “I can’t do anything online.”

“What happened is the system started bleeding because there was some fraudulent activity on some people’s accounts, so the entire system just flagged a bunch of people and put everyone on hold,” said April. 

Those with passes in Thursday’s line had all made it into the building around 9 a.m.

Many are leaving with answers and relief. 

“I’m appreciative that it’s done and today ran really smoothly and it was wonderful,” said April. 

The OESC has rented out the Reed Convention Center for July 6 through July 8 to host additional events.

People at today’s event were able to get passes for those days if they didn’t have a pass for today.

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