Unemployed Oklahomans’ patience growing thin as problems with the OESC persist

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Unemployed Oklahomans say they’re at their wits end. They say every week, they hear more promises from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, but their calls continue to go unanswered and they’re bank accounts are still empty.  

“I think it’s pathetic,” said Mindi Blanchard, who’s been furloughed now from a metro hospital for six weeks.  

Another unemployed Oklahoman, Dana Carter, says she’s burning through her savings, waiting for her unemployment benefits since March.  

“I honestly have no idea where to go from here. I haven’t heard a thing,” said Carter.  

Thousands calling the OESC daily, but callers say any real help is hard to come by.  

“I can’t get ahold of anybody,” said Blanchard.  

“They seem clueless…A few of them just didn’t care,” said Lacy McBride, another woman who has lost her job during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Everyone News 4 interviewed for this story says they have been waiting for a promised returned call from OESC, but no one ever returns their calls.  

Carter says Monday, she called back once again herself and recorded the call, asking about the lack of returned calls.  

“I was told I would be receiving a call before the end of the week,” said Carter to the OESC operator.  

The operator replied, saying, ”There is no way for us to give a time span when to expect a call back…there are thousands of calls and issues being reviewed and it’s impossible to give even the broadest of estimate.”

The OESC tells KFOR it’s working as fast as humanly possible to process the claims.  

Governor Kevin Stitt also stated back in April that he’d soon have the problems fixed himself.  

“Give me another week and I’m gonna have this thing wrapped up,” said Gov. Stitt April 28.  

News 4 asked him about the problems again Friday, May 15 and his response was much different.  

“That’s another broken part of state government… The governor technically has no authority to run that state agency…This is something the legislature has to fix,” said Gov. Stitt.  

Once again, unemployed Oklahomans say they feel as if they’ve been left with no real answers.  

“That’s ridiculous. I paid my taxes on time during this covid thing. I need my government to work for me.”

Below is the full statement from the OESC when KFOR posed questions about the continued problems with unemployment benefits.  

OESC continues to process claims as fast as humanly possible. We are doing everything possible to quickly remove stops and resolve issues holding up certain claims.  
Claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) include individuals with COVID-19 related job loss or business closure who are gig workers, independent contractors, other self-employment individuals, and claimants who have exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits. OESC continues to manually resolve each claim while developing the technology needed to automate this process.
The number of employees with the knowledge and expertise needed in this area remains a challenge. Training is ongoing to increase the number of personnel available to navigate the complexities associated with these specific types of claims. The agency has a fiscal responsibility to account for all funds paid out in relief while embracing its mission to provide benefits to eligibility claimants. The trust fund remains sound. PUA, PEUC, and FPUA are federally reimbursed. These individuals are our neighbors, friends, and, in some cases, family members. Our only focus is in connecting eligible claimants with these funds and we are doing so as quickly as possible.

Trey Davis, acting Public Information Officer for the OESC

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