Oklahoma officials seek to block judge’s order to reinstate federal unemployment benefits


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma County District Judge is ordering the state of Oklahoma to reinstate federal unemployment benefits.

Gov. Kevin Stitt ended those benefits three months before the September deadline.

On Sunday, the Attorney General’s office, which represents OESC executive director Shelley Zumwalt, tried to stop the reinstatement order.

An attorney’s email to the judge asks him to stop the order until the Supreme Court weighs in on the case.

On Monday, petitioners filed a motion claiming the Attorney General’s office didn’t follow the rules.

It reads in part, “Petitioners are shocked that the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office would communicate with the court in violation of fundamental civil procedure.”

They claim, “Zumwalt is trying to run the clock out in this case because benefits expire on September 6, 2021, and she hopes to make this controversy moot.”

Hours later, attorneys for Zumwalt filed the official paperwork with the state Supreme Court, asking them to step in and stop the judge’s order from going into effect.

That hearing, which is set for Wednesday, will happen at the same time another lawsuit on the same issue is heard. The only difference is that one was originally filed with the Supreme Court.

“We believe [ending federal benefits] is a violation of Oklahoma law, and we believe if Governor Stitt is going to ignore his constitutional obligation to adhere to and enforce the laws of Oklahoma then we need to ask the Oklahoma Supreme Court to order him to do so,” attorney Amber Hurst said. “We believe based on the factors we analyzed, and based on the fact that this is a legitimate and significant injury to the public, that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to hear the matter before it goes through the district court process.”

Meanwhile, claimants hope people understand that there are many reasons they still need the federal benefits.

“It actually would be a lot, a lot of help. With all the kids starting school, you know, kids need clothes and schools supplies,” claimant Courtney Orsburn said. “There’s people like me who have underlying health conditions. There’s people that, why are they going to take a pay cut from $20-$30 an hour, where they could pay the bills that they have, to a minimum wage job?”

The governor’s office released the following statement: “Governor Stitt fully supports the Attorney General’s actions today and eagerly awaits the results of Wednesday’s case before the Supreme Court.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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