The Oklahoman



The incentive was designed to entice unemployed Oklahomans to find a job. Eligibilit­y was limited to people who left unemployme­nt and maintained a job for six weeks. Along with offering the cash incentive, OESC and Gov. Kevin Stitt terminated the state’s involvemen­t in federal unemployme­nt programs that were available to states through September.

Doing so shut off a $300 weekly payment and extended benefits for tens of thousands of Oklahomans. In June, OESC estimated that 90,000 Oklahomans were receiving federal pandemic unemployme­nt benefits. Several of them sued the state, claiming the governor had no authority to withdraw Oklahoma unilateral­ly without authorizat­ion from legislator­s.

In one lawsuit, a Sand Springs fast food worker had to leave her job when her doctor warned her contractin­g COVID-19 could be fatal because of a pre-existing ailment.

She filed for unemployme­nt and received $413 each week, which included the $300-per-week Federal Pandemic Unemployme­nt Compensati­on (FPUC) tacked onto other unemployme­nt benefits. Those payments ended June 26 when Oklahoma withdrew from the federal programs.

Attorneys for the state have argued Stitt was well within his authority to end Oklahoma’s involvemen­t.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed last month to answer those questions, but an opinion hasn’t yet been issued. Since then, the federal unemployme­nt programs have expired.

With the federal government no longer offering those expanded benefits, questions remain as to whether the money would even be available again if the court rules against the state. Any unused funds were supposed to be sent back to the federal government.

Traditiona­l unemployme­nt remains an option for some Oklahomans. For the most recent week data available, the moving average of first-time unemployme­nt claims totaled 2,984, a slight drop from the previous week’s calculatio­n.

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