OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission distributed the first $1,200 payments to eligible applicants for the Back-to-Work Initiative on Thursday. The agency also reports a decline in initial claims and the initial claims’ four-week moving average, and an increase in continued claims and continued claims’ four-week moving average.

“The agency has worked diligently over the past several weeks to review applications for the Back-to-Work Initiative, and we have successfully paid out the first batch today,” said Shelley Zumwalt, OESC Executive Director. “So far, we have received over 10,000 applications, and are continuing to carefully review each application that makes it through the initial eligibility review process. We anticipate that there will be an increase in applications from Oklahomans as they begin fulfilling the six-week employment requirement in the coming weeks.”

Over 90 percent of applications were not approved because they did not meet the eligibility requirement to have received unemployment benefits one of the first two weeks in May. Others were rejected because of blurry paystub photos or because the information submitted did not match applicants’ paystubs. The agency encourages denied applicants who believe they are eligible to reapply with clear photos of paystubs and to submit information that matches their paystubs. Eligible claimants can apply at https://oklahoma.gov/oesc/individuals.html.

“We are thrilled to have started paying out the $1,200 to eligible applicants today,” said Zumwalt. “The Back-to-Work Initiative is meant to encourage folks to rejoin the workforce and find employment, and we are starting to see our workforce grow. The agency will continue to prioritize reviewing these applications and getting money into the hands of Oklahomans.”

OESC is conducting a manual review of each application to ensure all eligible claimants receive the $1,200, which takes OESC staff about two weeks to complete. Starting today, the agency will distribute payments to eligible applicants daily Monday-Friday through Sept. 4, 2021.

For the file week ending July 3, the number of initial claims totaled 6,770, a decrease of 2,461 from the previous week's level of 9,231. For the same file week, the less volatile initial claims four-week moving average was 8,944, a decrease of 541 from the previous week's average of 9,485. The number of continued claims totaled 36,109, an increase of 1,395 from the previous week’s level of 34,714. Continued claims’ four-week moving average was 35,220, an increase of 78 from the previous week's average of 35,142.

Nationally, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ending July 10 was 360,000, a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week's revised level, the U.S. Department of Labor reports. The four-week moving average was 382,500, a decrease of 14,500 from the previous week’s unrevised average. For the week ending July 3, U.S. DOL reports the advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.4 percent, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Individuals seeking unemployment benefits should go to https://ui.ok.gov and create an account with the Get Started button to connect their social security number and pull all unemployment information into one location. Unemployment claimants should be aware that not returning to work when recalled or when work is available could potentially lead to disqualification from receiving unemployment benefits.

Employers may report this activity by emailing returntowork@oesc.state.ok.us, calling 405-962-7524, or mailing OESC at P.O. Box 52006, Oklahoma City, OK, 73152-2006.

If a claimant returns to work full time, they should keep their unemployment claim open with OESC and not certify a weekly claim. If they return part time, a claimant may continue to certify their weekly claim and must report all gross earnings for the week to potentially receive a partial benefit. Eligibility for continued benefits is determined on the circumstances of each individual claimant.

OESC is an excellent resource for people looking to re-enter the job market by connecting Oklahomans with available employment through https://okjobmatch.com/.

Individuals who filed for unemployment between May 2-15 and who work two part-time jobs or one full-time job of 32 hours or more per week for six consecutive weeks are eligible for the governor’s Back to Work Initiative. Eligible Oklahomans can apply at https://oklahoma.gov/oesc/individuals.

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