OESC’s new interim executive director pledges aggressive plan to get money in hands of unemployed Oklahomans

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission continues to work through thousands of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 crisis, the agency now has a new interim executive director.

Last week, Robin Roberson resigned from her position as the executive director of the agency.

Roberson held the position for just two months before the coronavirus pandemic spread to the state in March.

Then on Wednesday, the board announced that Shelley Zumwalt will take over as the new interim director of OESC.

“Shelley brings a great deal of experience in building teams, working through challenging situations, and most importantly producing results,” Commission Chair David Reid said. “As we’ve said before, our priorities are getting Oklahomans the money they need and reducing fraud. We believe Shelley will help us produce these results.”

Zumwalt comes over from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services where she served as Chief of Innovation. She says she has an aggressive plan to get money into the hands of Oklahomans that are struggling to pay their bills.

“That business plan said that 25 percent of the claims that are currently flagged will be processed by this Friday,” Zumwalt said.

Zumwalt wants to have the remaining claims processed next Friday.

For Zumwalt, priority one is fixing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). She says previous leadership did a lot of things right, but she wants to take a different approach.

“I think PUA is one of those problems that we really need to dive in and figure out what’s going wrong with that,” Zumwalt said. “I know previous leadership probably thought that as well, but I’m planning on doing it today.”

Zumwalt wants to take a technological approach to fixing PUA, including taking a process that right now is manually reviewed by a person and making it digital to speed up the process. She also wants to work with OSBI and the Attorney General’s Office to fight fraud.

“Obviously, we need to tackle this. We need to identify the fraudulent claims that have been going through, have gone through previously, and figure out how to tackle that,” Shelley said.

OESC is an agency thousands of Oklahomans are fed up with, but Shelley says she knows she’s the right person for the job.

“The people of Oklahoma, I don’t think they really care who’s in charge of the agency,” Shelley said. “If they are waiting on money, they care if they get paid period.”

Zumwalt takes over as interim director effective immediately, and will receive an annual salary of $175,000.

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