After hitting an all-time high in April, the number of new unemployment claims is starting to level out. But with the total unemployment across the US now sat at around 40 million, it’s still a little early to start popping those champagne corks yet. The COVID-19 crisis has had a devasting impact on the US economy, with no state left untouched by its effects. As 247wallst.com notes, in Oklahoma, 23.7% of the workforce is now unemployed, representing a 1,280.3% jump on unemployment claims compared to this time last year. If you’re one of those that have lost their income as a result of the pandemic, Unemployment Insurance benefits (UI) could be crucial in seeing you through the coming weeks. Here, we take a look at what you’ll need to do to file for unemployment In Oklahoma.
If you’re hoping to claim UI, you’ll first need to ask yourself whether you meet the eligibility requirements dictated by the state. Typically, you’ll need to answer ‘yes’ to all of the following in order to progress a claim:
- Are you legally authorized to work in North America?
- Are you able and willing to work?
- Are you actively seeking new employment?
- Did you lose your last job through no fault of your own?
- Have you registered on OK Job-Match?
- Did you make at least $1,500 in the first four of the last five completed quarters?
We say ‘typically’… since the CARES Act came into play in March 2020, certain rules regulating the work-search requirement of the eligibility criteria have been relaxed. Now, if you’ve been placed on furlough because of COVID; either have it or have been ordered to quarantine after exposure; are the primary caregiver to some who has it or is in quarantine; or can’t get to work because of school closures, you’re still able to claim UI even if you aren’t in a position to actively seek new employment. The same applies if you’ve been asked to work reduced hours for a defined period: while you won’t be able to claim full benefits, you should be able to request partial benefits if your previous income meets the minimum income requirements. Additionally, self-employed persons, gig workers, and freelancers (none of whom would normally be entitled to file) are also eligible to claim under the new rules.
How to File for Unemployment in Oklahoma
If you’ve checked your eligibility and everything looks good, it’s time to get started on filing. Bear in mind that claims are backdated only to the date you file, not to your last day at work, so try to get it done as soon as possible after becoming unemployed or switching to reduced hours. In Oklahoma, you’ve got two options to file:
- Online at the website of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
- By calling 405-525-1500 if you’re inside the Oklahoma City area and 800-555-1554 if you’re outside it.
As part of the application, you’ll need to provide full name, address, and contact details for both yourself and any employers you’ve worked for in the last 18 months. You’ll also need to confirm your SSN, and if you’re in receipt of any severance pay from your last employer. If you’ve worked in the military or for the government within the last 18 months, additional forms will be needed. These can be obtained from the Oklahoma State website. Depending on whether you prefer to be paid by debit card or bank deposit, you might also need to confirm your bank account information.
How Much and For How Long Can I Claim?
The amount you receive in weekly benefits will be determined by your previous earnings. Under state rules, you’ll receive a weekly amount equal to 1/23rd of your highest quarter of taxable wages during your base period, up to the maximum amount permitted by state law. In addition to what the state pays, you’ll also get a flat payment of $600 per week until the end of July. Introduced as part of the CARES ACT, the payment is intended to relieve some of the financial burden resulting from the COVD crisis. The state will automatically calculate what you’re entitled to and for how long, so don’t worry about submitting any additional information outside of your initial claim to benefit. Generally, UI is payable for up to 26 weeks in any 52-week period. However, the CARES Act extends this by an additional 13 weeks, meaning you can continue to claim for up to 39 weeks in total.
Filing Weekly Claims
Now you’ve filed your initial claim, don’t sit back and relax thinking your job is done. In order to receive payment, you’ll need to certify your claim weekly. This can be done either online or by phone – whichever method you choose, just make sure you don’t forget. If you miss one week, you’ll be unable to claim benefits for the week in question. Start your weekly claims within 14 days of your initial claim, even if your application is still being reviewed.
Once you’ve filed your application, you’ll need to play a waiting game while the state reviews your application. If they request any further information in support of the claim, it’s important to respond as soon as possible to prevent any unnecessary delays. If you don’t reply in a timely manner, they may decide to base their decision solely on the information they already have. If that information isn’t accurate, it may end up having a negative impact on your eligibility.
Typically, you’ll receive confirmation of whether your claim has been successful within 3 weeks. If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal by following the process outlined in the Notice of Determination the state will send in confirmation of their decision. If you do log an appeal, be sure to continue to file your weekly benefits claims throughout; if you don’t, you won’t be eligible to claim payment for the missed weeks if your appeal is subsequently upheld.