OESC Asks State Supreme Court To Reverse Order To Restart Pandemic Unemployment Programs


Monday, August 9th 2021, 10:58 pm
By: Barry Mangold


OKLAHOMA CITY -

The director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is asking the Supreme Court of Oklahoma to reverse an order by a lower court to restart federal unemployment benefits.

Monday the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, which is representing OESC Director Shelley Zumwalt, filed the emergency appeal with the state Supreme Court.

The appeal seeks to undo an order from Oklahoma County District Judge Anthony Bonner in a lawsuit filed by a group seeking to restore four pandemic-related unemployment programs, which were discontinued by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Friday night, Bonner told attorneys involved in the lawsuit in an email that he intended to formally order the state to restart the programs. 

Read: District Judge Orders State To Restore Federal Unemployment Benefits For Oklahomans

According to online court records, the appeal will be heard by the state Supreme Court on Wednesday morning immediately after a separate but similar case, in which a group of 10 Oklahomans are asking the court to restore the benefits.

Stitt discontinued four pandemic-related unemployment benefits in June: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC); Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA); Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC); and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC).

In their place, Stitt offered 20,000 one-time $1,200 payments to individuals who returned to jobs as a back-to-work incentive.

“The federal government has started creating an incentive to stay at home instead of getting back into the workforce,” Stitt said of the federal unemployment at a May press conference.

As of Thursday, the OESC had received about 4,000 eligible applications for the $1,200 payments, Zumwalt said.

Attorneys representing the OESC asked Bonner to pause his order pending the appeal. One of the attorneys involved said Bonner will review that request Monday afternoon.

Tune In: News 9's Barry Mangold will have the latest developments Monday in the 10 p.m. newscast.