Our state and nation have been faced with tremendous hardships in recent months. This week, I wanted to share some resources including clarification on unemployment programs.
Before that, though, I want to urge everyone to continue practice social distancing, wearing masks when possible in public and washing your hands often. Please consider using pickup and delivery for groceries, meals and other applicable needs. If you have gatherings with friends and family, practice social distancing. We’ve seen record number of cases and deaths in the last few weeks and those numbers won’t improve unless we take personal responsibility and follow health guidelines.
Many of our citizens have also faced financial hardship from businesses being shut down. Unfortunately, because of the prevalence of the virus, we haven’t seen the last of these hardships.
Navigating the unemployment system and its various programs can be confusing, so I thought I’d discuss the different programs.
We’ll start with regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Unemployment Compensation (UC), which includes 26 weeks of benefits for those who work for a company or other entity and were earning wages. These benefits are paid for by Oklahoma businesses and employers.
Given that the pandemic is ongoing, it was necessary to extend UI/UC, which led to the creation of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). This is an additional 13 weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted their regular UI. This benefit program is effective March 29, 2020 to December 26, 2020.
This past week another unemployment extension was announced. The State Extended Benefits (SEB) will provide another 13 weeks of assistance for those who have exhausted both their regular UI and PEUC benefits before their benefit year is through.
For gig, contract, and selfemployed workers, Congress created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This is the first time in history that such a program has been created for these workers. Claimants must first be denied regular UI before applying for this assistance, which provides 39 weeks of benefits. This program is effective March 2, 2020 to December 26, 2020. Once you reopen your business or have work again, you can still receive backdated unemployment benefits for those weeks you were unable to work.
Then on top of all these unemployment programs, Congress also approved the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provided an additional $600 per week. As of this writing, this additional benefit had expired last week but Congress is working on another benefits package. If you’re seeking back unemployment, you will still get this additional benefit.
I want to remind everyone again that once your place of business reopens, you must return to work or you may not qualify for further unemployment benefits. However, if you return to work full time, keep your unemployment claim open with OESC but just don’t certify a weekly claim. If you’re only working part-time, you may still qualify for partial unemployment benefits so continue certifying your weekly claim and report all your gross earnings to determine qualification.
If you still haven’t received any unemployment benefits, please contact my office and we will do our best to help you get it resolved.
Also, if you’re a business owner and have employees refusing to come back to work, please let the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) know so they can address the situation.
There has been a problem in states like Oklahoma where unemployment is much higher than some people’s normal pay, so they’re trying to stay on it. This is a crime, and we must work to stop it. Please report violators to returntowork@oesc. state.ok.us, call 405-962-7524, or mail OESC at P.O. Box 52006, Oklahoma City, OK, 73152-2006.
For those looking for employment, be sure to check out https://okjobmatch. com/ and set up a profile with your city and the type of work you’re wanting. There are thousands of jobs listed and once you set up a profile, you’ll get email updates of any additions or changes.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.