Some Oklahomans Say They Have Not Received Lost Wages Assistance Funds

Wednesday, September 23rd 2020, 5:21 pm
By: Tevis Hillis

The state said the back pay has been processed and sent out, but many Oklahomans said they are confused and waiting for funds.

"I was laid off on March 15," said Shayla Culp who is unemployed due to pandemic.

Culp said she was laid off after her restaurant had to close due to COVID-19 concerns and filed for unemployment immediately. 

"Everything went perfect, went smooth. I never had an issue with unemployment. I certify weekly everything has gone smooth," said Culp. 

At least until now. Culp thinks she should be receiving the Lost Wages Assistance benefit, but she hasn't received it.

"I just don't understand it, how I couldn't be eligible, when I get over $100 in unemployment, I was unemployed as a direct result of COVID-19," said Culp.  

The Loss Wages Assistance provision was implemented on August 1. It was intended to bridge a gap between the expiration of CARES Act funds and a new relief package that Congress has not passed.

But thousands of claimants in Oklahoma have been waiting weeks for the money.

"I know there are a lot of you that are upset, angry, stressed because you believe you are eligible for the LWA benefit, and you did not receive it," said Shelley Zumwalt, OESC's executive director.

Zumwalt addressed thousands of comments on the agency's Facebook page.

"We started distributing the LWA benefit Monday night," said Zumwalt.

Zumwalt said the second eligibility requirement is what's causing many issues. The OESC must have written documentation that your job loss is due directly to COVID. On many of the claims, the OESC said the person either didn't answer whether COVID caused their job loss or they answered no.

"My goal is not to not pay people benefits. If you are eligible for LWA, I want you to have these benefits," said Zumwalt.

The state is giving claimants who think they're eligible another opportunity to certify that their job loss is due to COVID. They will have a form to fill out on their website.