Hundreds of Oklahomans once again wait in line for help with unemployment claims

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MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – It was another day with hundreds of Oklahomans in line at the Reed Center in Midwest City waiting to file their unemployment claims.  

On Monday, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission staff had a number system, and 1,500 were in the door by about 7:45 a.m.

Some waiting in line shared their emotional stories with News 4. 

“I’ve never been unemployed. I’ve been working since I was 14, cutting grass, cleaning houses and now just to be unemployed it’s horrible,” said Sofia Sweet. “You think that the system will work better for us, but it doesn’t. I had other employees that worked with me got on just like that but me, I say, why me?”

“I have college I have to pay for, things I need to pay for, phone bills,” said Lauren Blair. 

News 4 asked OESC Interim Exec. Director Shelley Zumwalt about people who are already back to work that can’t wait in line. 

“Phone lines are open late, and by doing these events we’re taking 1,100 people out of that queue for the phones so that should be available. You know if they are back to work and they have a lunch break that might be something that’s feasible. We’re also looking at doing a Saturday event,” said Zumwalt. 

Recent numbers also show the total number of denied unemployment insurance claims reaching over 350,000. 

We asked why that number was so high. 

“That UI number is high because you have to be denied UI in order to quality for PUA. So as many approved PUA claims, that would be as many UI. There’s not one that has filed for PUA that hasn’t been denied UI,” said Zumwalt. 

We also brought up concerns surrounding the phone system. 

“You’re waiting for someone to call you and you’re waiting and waiting and it’s like, oh, I’ll call you back, and they don’t call back so you have to call again,” said Blair. 

Zumwalt says it’s something that has improved drastically, but they’re still working to perfect.

“The phone situation has been a challenge since day one for me. We’ve put more people on the front of the line, our tier two representatives. Our first call resolution has gone up by 30 percent. I do still think there is room for improvement there and we are constantly working with our vendor and our employees to make sure we can meet that need,” said Zumwalt. 

Even with a clearer idea of what some problems may be, those in line are desperate to see relief. 

“Day by day, I just pray to God that this is going to help me out hopefully,” said Sweet.

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