“It’s an imperfect situation,” OESC still working through state unemployment troubles

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is still working through backlogged unemployment nearly a year into the pandemic.  

Director Shelley Zumwalt says while the agency has made strides, it has not yet turned a corner.  

She says by design, the agency was not set up to be accessible from the outside to claimants, making getting information to them efficiently difficult.  

“The agency was built on phone calls and mailing letters…The system wasn’t ever pushed at the level it is now. There wasn’t really a fear of it imploding,” said Zumwalt.  

Zumwalt says the agency’s biggest challenge is its antiquated technology.  

“We’re dealing with 40 years of code that is written over each other and over each other…The technology piece is absolutely the biggest part of that and working towards that goal and making sure we transition off that main frame in a responsible way,” said Zumwalt.  

She says another piece of the puzzle are trained employees who can answer the phones and work through claimants’ problems. 20 employees have been added to both Tulsa and OKC, but Zumwalt says most of the people on the other end of the line are not in Oklahoma at all.

“It’s an imperfect situation and Atos is based all over the united states, it’s not out of country, it’s continuous united states…Hiring 500 people is not a good idea for my agency because we’re not always going to have that need. That’s why scaling up and down with a vendor is ideal,” said Zumwalt.  

Zumwalt says she knows the agency still needs improving, and is continuing to ask claimants for patience.

“I don’t think that they should have to wait this long, I’m in agreement with them. If we had other resources, we would deploy them.”

The transition to the new claim filings system won’t be completely finished until 2022, but part of the transition will be completed late this year.  

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