OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As many places across the country issue ‘shelter-in-place’ orders, some businesses are closing their doors.
As a result, many Oklahomans have lost their jobs and are now trying to file for unemployment.
Unemployment claims are up 865 percent in Oklahoma in March, and Gov. Kevin Stitt says state unemployment field offices are receiving 20,000 calls per day.
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is encouraging first-time filers to go online instead of calling.
“It isn’t necessary to call to file an unemployment claim,” said Executive Director Robin Roberson. “The agency’s website has information to answer every question. Really, everything can be done online. Our phones lines are so clogged that most callers are receiving a busy signal and are unable to reach us.”
Previously, the most an Oklahoman could get was $535 a week but now the extra $600 in the federal unemployment plan will help people get their bills paid.
As for small business owners and the self employed, the OESC says they did get information on Tuesday from the US Department of Labor on how they can file for traditional unemployment.
Officials say the process is still under review.
Sen. Kirt says Small Business Emergency Loans and Payroll Protection Plans are already up and running.
“It can cover the cost of their salary plus their rent and so that would help people a lot more than just doing an unemployment claim. So if you are an independent contractor or self employed, check that first,” said Sen. Julie Kirt.
On Wednesday, the OESC released additional information about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Who is eligible for PUA? An individual who:
- Is not eligible for regular or extended benefits under State of Federal law.
- Is not eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
- Is otherwise able to work and available for work within the meaning of applicable State law, except the individual is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because:
o The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis;
o A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
o The individual is providing care for a family member or a member of the individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
o A child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is un able to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work
o The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;
o The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health provided to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
o The individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;
o The individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
o The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; or
o The individual meets any additional criteria established by the Secretary for unemployment assistance under this section; or
- Is self-employed, is seeking part-time employment, does not have sufficient work history, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation under Section 2107 and meets the regular, extended or PEUC benefits.
This does not include an individual who:
o Has the ability to telework with pay; or
o Who is receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits, regardless of whether the individual meets a qualification period described in the bullet points above.
Officials say they do not anticipate the payments to be available until mid-April. However, they say they will be backdated to the date the individual stopped working due to a COVID-related cause.
For claimants, visit this site.
If you are an employer, click here.
Small business owners should visit this site.