Oklahoma Lawmaker Says Unemployment Agency ‘A Total Failure’ In Wake Of Pandemic

Monday, May 4th 2020, 10:53 pm
By: Barry Mangold


On Monday officials with the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission responded to a state lawmaker who gave harsh criticism over the agency’s performance.

Rep. Mickey Dollens (D - Oklahoma City) said he’s gotten the impression that the OESC has intentionally slowed the procession of more than 400,000 unemployment claims since mid-March.

“Overall, this has just been a total failure of implementation on behalf of OESC,” Dollens said. “I'm led to believe that (OESC) intended to be unnecessarily complicated to slow down the number of applicants or, and I hate to say, to give them so much despair and exhaust them to the point that they give up.”

Dollens posted a scathing review of the agency’s performance on his Facebook page.

“No other state is having the ineptitude that Oklahoma is having right now,” he said.

OESC said it’s received 432,076 unemployment claims since March 15. 63,589 of those are still pending, according to the agency.

“There is no slow down whatsoever across these claims,” said David Ostrowe, Oklahoma’s Digital Transformation Secretary, in response to Dollens’ post.

OESC has built a new website since the outbreak of COVID-19, Ostrowe said, and it has added hundreds of workers to its call centers to handle the influx of claims.

“We've stood up new interfaces over weekends. We've put up anti-bot systems over weekends. I can tell you they've moved at the speed of light,” Ostrowe said, adding that Oklahoma is setting an example for other states.

“I've talked to our counterparts in other states, and they're asking to use our technology to help leapfrog them into the future.”

In addition to the “unprecedented” number of filings, Ostrowe said OESC has already stopped more than 4,000 fraudulent claims.

“There are some major issues here. What we're hearing from the governor and what's really happening doesn't seem to match up,” Dollens said.