A few dozen business owners rallied at the state Capitol, angry that after weeks of trying they still haven’t received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a temporary federal program set up under the CARES Act to provide unemployment assistance for people who traditionally wouldn’t be eligible.The state received the federal funds.But some said they can’t access the cash they’re entitled to.
“I’ve waited going on eight weeks now to get my POA benefits. My case still says open and I was only able to claim two days out of five weeks that I was closed down. Two days. My button does not work to file weekly claim. It’s deactivated,” said Charity Snapp, owner of The Chair Salon.
And Snapp isn’t alone. Folks at the rally complained about long wait times, a lack of response, and major computer issues at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
“When I went on the website, I was unable to even get approved. My case was pending until this morning when I went on and now it’s closed. So, I haven’t been able to get any payments or any information,” said Mickey Elliott-Clark, a massage therapist at Space Yoga.
“If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And being closed for a month and a half was pretty devastating,” said organizer Monica Marsh.
Marsh said she finally jumped through the hoops on the OESC’s website, only to be offered benefit for 120 years ago.
“Nothing has worked right from the very beginning. Not only did they have no guidance or direction but what they did have for us to work with is honestly complete trash,” she said.
Secretary of Digital Transformation David Ostrowe released a statement saying:
“The state has paid out over $736 million in benefits since March 15 and was one of the first states in the nation to process and pay out PUA. …There are still ongoing issues with information that is entered by claimants that delays claims processing and must be reviewed by OESC before funds can be released.”
“They’re deflecting blame and they’re blaming us the users when the don’t even have the right software in place for us. So, they’re like, oh you should have answered it this way.Well, are we mind readers now?” Marsh said.
Ostrowe stopped by the protest Monday afternoon with three agents from OESC to help solve demonstrators’ individual cases.