OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Lori Jakubowsky is spending a lot more time with her dog, Opie, right now.
Unfortunately, she was furloughed last week.
“I’m definitely living paycheck to paycheck. I barely make it. My rent takes two and a half paychecks to pay at this point,” Jakubowsky said.
She, like tens of thousands of Oklahomans, are filing for unemployment at record setting numbers. As a result, they’re turning to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
“I started calling and it was 10:30 in the morning. By 3:50 in the afternoon, I’m still on the phone and I get that disconnect saying, ‘Uh we can’t take your call right now,’” Jakubowsky said.
Part of the problem is the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is being inundated with calls.
Typically, they get 1,500 to 2,000 calls each week. Last week, they had almost 45,000 people claiming unemployment.
“We have about 1,000 phone line reports over there at OESC. While we’re working with AT&T to secure more, we don’t have the staff to actually man those,” Robin Roberson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, said.
Currently, OESC has 84 employees taking calls with 130 more people from other agencies on the way next week.
However, there’s another problem; calling people back.
“People aren’t going to want to hear this, but I just want to be factual. We’re going to start limiting the number of phone calls in the cue. They’ll be receiving a busy signal. The reason why is at 8:30 this morning, all 1,000 were tapped out, and our employees can’t make calls outbound to work on cases so it’s really clogging up the process,” Roberson said.
OESC is implementing more technology including an A.I. chat bot to the website, more bandwidth and a new look as well.
They are asking those who can claim through the website to do so while they take calls from people who don’t have the internet.
Meanwhile, they’re answering thousands of emails and planning to add up to 15 full-time employees.
“It’s been a frustrating experience for us as well because we want to service all of Oklahoma as fast as possible,” Roberson said.
“Nobody’s not being understanding. We all understand that everybody’s doing the best they can do under the circumstance,” Jakubowsky said. She was able to file for unemployment online, but is still trying to reach an operator to ask a question about a date error she saw.
Meanwhile, OESC just received a summary of the CARES Act and is waiting for official guidance from the Department of Labor.
Roberson said people filing for unemployment will get back pay to March 31 on the $600 a week payment passed by the federal government.
Oklahoma will also offer extra time for those filing for unemployment.
“We also signed up for the benefit of allowing the additional 13 weeks in our state for those people who are currently on unemployment to receive an additional 13 weeks,” Roberson said.