Oklahoma Gov.’s unemployment benefits decision could lead to disaster for apprentices, Union says

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Some Oklahoma workers say there’s an unaccounted-for impact of the governor’s plan to opt-out of pandemic unemployment benefits early. 

The federal government pays an extra $300 a week in benefits until September 6 for furloughed or laid-off workers, but Governor Stitt is ending those payments by June 27. 

It has presented a dilemma for some Oklahomans who were counting on that extra money all summer. 

“This is a valuable subsidy. It is serving a purpose, and it is allowing them to continue their in-class training while we wait for work to pick up,” said the Oklahoma Electrician Union business manager Jim Griffy. 

Griffy said the union has 27 apprentices, and they count on the extra money to continue training.

Because of the pandemic, construction projects are slow to come, causing trainees to be without work and pay. 

“My hope is that this could be reconsidered because our 27 apprentices that are out of work, they didn’t do anything wrong,” said Griffy. 

Governor Stitt will end the extra money coming in from Washington on June 27th.

Instead, he’s offering a $1,200 bonus to the first 20,000 Oklahomans to reenter the job market. 

“Our challenge is not to get business back open; we’ve done that. It’s been getting employees back to work,” said Governor Stitt on Monday. 

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Griffy said the apprentices have no problem with getting back to business. In the meantime, he’s worried about their bottom line.

“We have 27 people that would love to go back to work,” said Griffy. “They just can’t because they have to wait on projects to start.” 

KFOR reached out to the governor’s officer for a comment. We were told to contact the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. 

“The decision to end federal unemployment benefit programs was made after careful deliberation by the administration. OESC is hopeful that the incentive that Governor Stitt established can help Oklahomans as they get back into the workforce. Unlike other states ending federal benefits, the State of Oklahoma is giving claimants a six-week notice period to give them more time in their search for employment. If you need help finding employment, I encourage you to sign up for OESC’s virtual career fair or visit oklahoma.gov/oesc to find other employment opportunities,” said OESC Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt.

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