OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Claimants receiving unemployment benefits from OESC are now required to do two job searches a week to continue getting benefits, but there are exceptions.
“I’m just very concerned about it because COVID-19 in Oklahoma is out of control right now,” a claimant who only wanted to go by J.B. said. “It’s much more terrible here than it ever was, and it’s just like everyone’s ignoring it.”
The requirement was already in place before the pandemic hit, but was waived until now.
State Representative Mickey Dollens is asking for Governor Kevin Stitt to extend the waiver while a state of emergency is in place for COVID-19.
“It just seems like one more hurdle that people have to jump through in order to please the OESC and get the money that they’re entitled to,” Dollens said.
The requirement means you have to do two job searches a week and document it.
Work registration has to be done through okjobmatch.com, but searches can be done anywhere.
“During the pandemic, we’re not requiring people to leave their house to do this, you can search on any site you want,” Zumwalt said.
If you are at risk or medically impacted by COVID-19, note that on your weekly claim, and you will be exempt.
“We are continuing to waive the work search for those people. I know there’s been a lot of concern with that, and we obviously don’t want to have people in what would be an unsafe situation,” OESC Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said. “The requirement is for people who are able-bodied and can return to the workforce safely.”
J.B. says he’s worried about meeting the requirement.
“Maybe I could interview online, well I guess I better go out and buy a camera and a microphone because I don’t have one of those either and there goes some more money,” J.B. said.
Zumwalt says there are resources for people who need help, and interviews can be done over the phone.
“I’ve directed my staff to be super flexible when accepting it, and we’re trying to work with people as well,” she said.
“I just don’t understand if they’re so flexible, why even do it in the first place? Because people are at an all-time high with their stress,” Dollens said.
J.B. says he doesn’t feel like the time is right until the pandemic is under control.
“This turtle wants to come out of his shell when there’s a vaccine,” he said. “I wouldn’t want them to think I’m sponging off the state, or I’m some kind of slacker, I just want to avoid getting sick.”
The Governor’s office sent a statement that reads:
“Oklahoma has been fully reopened for almost five months and our unemployment rate is now ninth lowest in the nation at 5.3%. There are many ways Oklahomans can search for jobs to satisfy the requirements, including ways that do not require leaving your house or having an internet connection.
The waiver has been extended through the end of the year for people medically impacted by COVID-19, but employers are looking for applicants and ready to hire those who are able to return to work.
Unemployment benefits are designed to support Oklahomans as they transition from one job to their next one, and getting claimants connected with hiring employers is the next step in rebuilding our economy.”
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