Dozens rally Capitol over unemployment problems
Mike Seals - May 19, 2020 1:34 pm
Dozens rally at Oklahoma Capitol over unemployment problems
People demonstrate in front of the state Capitol to protest the lack of unemployment payments for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA, for the self employed in Oklahoma City, Monday, May 18, 2020. Many say they have been unable to get a response to their unemployment claims. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dozens of people rallied at the state Capitol on Monday, complaining that their state unemployment claims aren’t being processed.
Most of those who gathered on the Capitol’s south steps were self-employed and complained of glitches with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s website, waiting on hold for hours to talk to an agent and not getting promised call backs.
Pandemic unemployment assistance is “my last resort,” said Charity Snapp, the owner of a Warr Acres salon that was forced to shut down for five weeks. “There is no other hope for me.”
Snapp organized the event after she spent weeks on the phone and online trying to submit a claim to the agency. Even though she was out of work for more than a month, she said she was only able to submit a claim for two days of work, and she’s yet to receive any money.
Oklahoma’s Secretary of Digital Transformation David Ostrowe has acknowledged the agency was initially hindered by outdated technology and an overwhelming number of claims, but says the agency also has also made great progress in recent weeks.
Ostrowe and several agency staffers met with protesters Monday to offer onsite assistance, said agency spokeswoman Shelley Zumwalt.
“Each OESC staff member gathered information and listened to the difficulties the protesters are experiencing and is personally looking into each protester’s claim to help resolve their issues,” Zumwalt said.
State Sen. Mary Boren said her office has been inundated with calls and emails of constituents who have not received benefits and have not been able to get through to the OESC to check on their claim.
“It’s beyond frustrating that our citizens, through no fault of their own, had to close their business because of the health crisis yet haven’t received the unemployment benefits they were promised,” said Boren, a Democrat from Norman.