As the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission works to process thousands of unemployment claims, online groups have become a haven for guidance for those navigating the process.
Kienlen-Gibson said she and other leaders in the group help individuals that are in a variety of different situations. Many, she said, never expected to need unemployment benefits.
“They are middle-class people that were doing just fine, and then (the COVID-19 pandemic) happened,” she said. “And now, it’s not—it’s about paying, hanging onto your house or your car while trying to feed your kids at the same time.”
In addition to the online help, Kienlen-Gibson bought and dropped off groceries for families.
“I keep telling these people that this is not a handout, this is a hand-up,” Kienlen-Gibson said.
Gabrielle Gray, a mother of two, had to switch careers after losing her job. She said she filed for unemployment in April and has yet to receive any benefits. The sight of groceries on the table, delivered by Kienlen-Gibson, is a welcome one, Gray said.
“(Kienlen-Gibson) is like the unemployment guru,” Gray said. “She’s kind of like our vigilante. She’s out there digging and finding answers.”
Shelley Zumwalt, the interim OESC Executive Director, said she supports Kienlen-Gibson’s kindness.
“I don’t see myself in an adversarial role with this woman. She seems like she is absolutely the kind of people that represent the Oklahoma standard,” Zumwalt said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate was 12.6% on Wednesday.
OESC recently launched a new website to help make the process more user-friendly.