By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahomans who've lost their jobs should be receiving an additional $25 a week in their unemployment checks as part of the federal stimulus package, but there's one part of the stimulus help that out of work Oklahomans won't be seeing.
Oklahoma doesn't qualify for the 13-week benefit extension because the state's unemployment rate isn't high enough. Jim McMasters, who's been on the job hunt for nearly a year now, won't be getting any extensions for compensation.
"It was so humiliating to me that I stood there in line crying," McMasters said. "Never had that happen to me before, I've never experienced this."
McMasters will never forget the day he could barely pay for his $18 worth of groceries. The 60-year-old lost his job at a company he's worked for over a decade. Like many of those hit hard by a job loss, McMasters filed for unemployment benefits and after a year, his benefits have run out.
"I do feel betrayed," McMasters said. "I felt like I was mislead by both the state of Oklahoma and by the federal government."
McMasters believed he'd get the much needed extra $25 a week and an extension as a result of the expected federal stimulus money.
"Right now, Oklahoma is in the basic tier where people can get up to 20 weeks of additional federally funded unemployment compensation," said Jerry Pectol of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
The 12 states in tier two have an unemployment rate over six percent for a three month period.
Unemployed workers in the states will receive an extra $25 a week and a 13-week extension in their benefits.
Currently, Oklahoma doesn't qualify for the extension because the unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.
Across the state, claims have skyrocketed nearly 100 percent in the last year and the numbers are still climbing with record setting claims and calls.
Unless Tier 2 kicks in somewhere down the road, help is out of the state's control.
"There's just nothing we can do for them as far as unemployment insurance goes, they've drawn everything they're entitled to," Pectol said.
With the numbers of jobless claims climbing, experts predict Oklahoma could see a 6 percent unemployment rate by the end of 2009.
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