State Clears Unemployment Backlog As Technical Issues Persist

Thursday, June 11th 2020, 5:12 pm
By: Storme Jones


Fifty-thousand more Oklahomans filed for unemployment last week, nearly 10,000 fewer than the week before.

For the first time, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said it has cleared the backlog of claims from COVID-19, however the agency's leader said that doesn't mean all of their problems have gone away.

“First of all, I apologize, “OESC Interim Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said. “This is not how it should work.”

Zumwalt said after two weeks leading the agency, the backlog list has been eliminated, however she said people facing issues receiving unemployment benefits don’t care if their error is categorized as backlog or a technical issue, she said she’s working to get it fixed.

“There are still issues, mainly with PUA right now, and I want to be upfront about that,” she said. “We are having technical issues with that system. Does that mean nothing is happening? Not at all. We are still processing claims, we are still having success there. But there are too many people who aren’t having success.”

She said the agency moved more experienced tier two agents to tier one so people can get help right when they call instead of waiting for a call back.

Zumwalt said they also looked at questions holding up claims. She for example said a question about being “discharged” has a very specific meaning in unemployment law, but if someone were to say they were “discharged” from their job due to COVID-19, the claim would be stopped.

“I think we used language that from my perspective is a little bit elusive to normal people, and I include myself into that,” she said. “We went back and saw a disproportionate amount of people were answering that question in a way that stopped their claim. “