OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Friday, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission announced the State Extended Benefits program was ending December 12.
OESC Director Shelley Zumwalt originally told people they would have a three-week notice before the benefits ended, and says she was caught off guard when she heard the news from the Federal Department of Labor.
“It’s just kind of a heart breaker for a lot of people. I did not want to deliver that message, it is not the message I wanted to deliver,” Zumwalt told News 4. “We’re examining different regulations and looking into everything we can.”
Zumwalt says minutes after she got the email, she took to Facebook to break the news to the thousands of Oklahomans still relying on unemployment.
“Delivering bad news is never going to be an olive branch you need,” Zumwalt said. “Even when it’s difficult I always want to be truthful and straight forward. When I have nothing else to give I do want to be transparent.”
Despite the name, state extended benefits are a federal program, so Zumwalt says they couldn’t keep it going even if they wanted to.
She realizes there are a lot of people still depending on those benefits to make ends meet.
“It kind of put me in panic mode to be honest. The whole year has been crazy, and being unemployed is overall stressful all the time,” Oklahoma City Resident Amanda Hoddy told KFOR. “Doing everything I possibly can to get back to work, then finding out there’s a sooner harder deadline is stressful to say the least.”
With Christmas right around the corner, Hoddy and many other are left wondering how long they will continue to be able to pay their bills.
“There’s no extra, there’s nothing to spend. There’s barely any to save for the time after the benefits lapse. There’s no wiggle room whatsoever, so Christmas was already off the table,” Hoddy said. “I’m lucky to have family and friends that look after me, but if unemployment was my only hope I wouldn’t have any left.”
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