Oklahoma could end federal pandemic unemployment benefits early

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Changes could be coming for that extra $300 being given out through September as discussions begin to possibly end federal pandemic unemployment benefits for Oklahomans.

“At the end of the day I don’t care if you call it PUA or AUA. If you’re getting an extra $300 from the federal government, if the governor decides to opt out of this, that’s going to end. That’s the bottom line,” said Rep. Mickey Dollens, HD 93.

Dollens is voicing concerns as states across the country are choosing to end federal pandemic unemployment benefits early. 

“While congress has already put this money out the door and allocated it to states to last until September, why wouldn’t we do everything that we can to help Oklahomans during this tough time?” Dollens said.

Just last week, Gov. Stitt signed an executive order to end the Oklahoma COVID-19 State of Emergency.

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Now there may be discussion behind the scenes to end the pandemic unemployment benefits as well.

“Why would you do something like that?” said Clea Lawrence, who is waiting on unemployment benefits. “Governor Stitt makes everybody feel like the right thing to do is just jump right back in to work, like life is still normal, but it’s not.”

Lawrence lost her job six months ago now and says she’s still fighting with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission to get her unemployment benefits.

“Sometimes I get treated like I’m somebody that’s begging for money. I’ve worked for my money. I just want help,” Lawrence said.

We asked OESC about the possible decision to end the benefits and received this statement saying in part–

“The decision to continue or end federal benefits will be made by the administration, not OESC.”

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The governor’s office also telling News 4 there may be a decision made next week.

Saying– 

“All options are being considered to get Oklahomans back to work because there are tens of thousands of open jobs.”

“It’s not just as simple as, ‘oh they’re living off this extra benefit, so they’re not working.’ It’s much more complex than that and I think that deserves acknowledgement,” Dollens said. “My desire is that the governor lets these go until September.”

Again, we don’t know right now if the governor is going to choose to end these benefits early, but we will keep you posted.

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