OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Even though businesses across the state are starting to reopen, officials say the initial number of unemployment insurance claims filed in the state reached its highest weekly level since the start of the crisis.
For the week ending on May 2, unadjusted initial claims in Oklahoma totaled 68,237, which is an increase of about 15,500 claims.
“The jump in initial unemployment claims show the impact the energy crisis and coronavirus are having on our state’s economy and the need for Oklahomans to safely return to their livelihoods,” said Secretary for Digital Transformation David Ostrowe. “The record claims numbers include individuals who don’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits but don’t completely account for the spike that occurred last week.”
So far, about $432 million in benefits have been paid to claimants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We still have over 8,000 potential PUA applications that haven’t been completed,” Ostrowe said. “We encourage individuals who don’t qualify for regular unemployment to complete the PUA application.”
PUA applicants must be denied regular unemployment insurance benefits before applying for relief provided by the CARES Act. PUA is designed for gig workers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals.
Officials say claimants should go to https://ui.ok.gov and create an account with the Get Started button to connect their Social Security number and pull all their information into one location.
If a claimant returns to work full-time, they should keep their unemployment claim open with OESC and not certify a weekly claim. If they return part-time, a claimant may continue to certify their weekly claim and must report all gross earnings for the week to potentially receive a partial benefit. Eligibility for continued benefits is determined on the circumstances of each individual claimant.
If a PUA eligible claimant reopens their business as the state revives, officials say they will still receive backdated unemployment benefits to when their COVID-19 related job loss or business closure occurred.
“As we’ve noted previously, the pandemic has provided an opportunity for criminals seeking to game the system by filing fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits,” Ostrowe said. “It’s important for any business owner receiving fictitious claims or claimants who suspect their identity has been used to commit fraud to contact the agency.”