Record number of Oklahomans apply for unemployment benefits amid coronavirus outbreak

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the record number for unemployment claims in one week in Oklahoma was around 9,000 back in 1991; now, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission says it had that many claims on Wednesday alone. 

Some Oklahoma’s are frustrated because they’ve been waiting for weeks to receive their first unemployment check.  

“I cannot get them on the phone, cannot walk into the office,” Kimberly Watts told News 4.  “When you do call them on the phone, I was on hold the other day for two hours then it just hung up.”

Watts says she was all set to start a news job before everything was shut down. 

Now she feels hopeless because she’s left without a pay check, and her unemployment claim still says it’s pending. 

“Very hopeless. I mean, there’s no income.  I’ve got my daughter and two grand babies living with me,” Watts said. “Her job’s been shut down because it’s non essential as well.”

Executive Director of the Employment Security Commission says while there are a record number of people applying for unemployment, and that high traffic has caused them to have some issues with their website.  

“I know there’s been some frustration,” Roberson said.  “We would appreciate the patience of Oklahomans, because this is unprecedented. We haven’t seen numbers like this before.”

Roberson say they are working to add bandwidth to their system.   

Right now, she’s asking for people to file online instead of calling, and to make sure you fill out the entire claim form so they can send out checks as fast as possible.  

“We have seen some people receive it in as little as four days,” Roberson told News 4.  “I want to say the far end of that is about three weeks.”

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