Oklahoma Supreme Court grants State’s request for stay on federal unemployment benefits reinstatement

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Correction: In the original story the number of Oklahomans impacted was not accurate, that has been updated. This story also reflects a clarification on the benefits involved in this ongoing lawsuit.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted the State’s request for a stay on the reinstatement of federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

The stay is placed on an Oklahoma County District Court judge’s order for the State of Oklahoma to reinstate the main $300 unemployment benefits along with three other federal benefits.

Judge Anthony Bonner Jr., on Aug. 6, ordered the State to reinstate the benefits in response to a lawsuit filed by Oklahomans against the state for ending the federal unemployment benefits early.

The OESC says this impacts approximately 90,000 Oklahomans.

The main $300-a-week federal CARES Act benefits were set to expire on Sept. 6. However, Gov. Kevin Stitt said in May the added federal benefits disincentive people from working. He announced the benefits would end two months and 13 days early, while also offering a $1,200 back-to-work incentive.

Oklahoma Supreme Court
Oklahoma Supreme Court

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, representing OESC Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt, tried to stop the benefits from being reinstated by emailing the judge on Aug. 8, asking him to stop the order until Supreme Court weighs in on the case.

Petitioners responded the following day by filing a motion that claimed the Attorney General’s Office was not following the rules.

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

“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,” the petitioners claimed.

Zumwalt’s attorneys proceeded to file paperwork with the Supreme Court, requesting they intervene and stop the judge’s order from going into effect.

The ruling is now under appeal to the State Supreme Court.

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