Starting Sunday, unemployed Oklahomans won't be able to file for unemployment compensation beyond 60 weeks.
Since Jan. 8, long-term unemployed Oklahomans could collect up to 13 weeks of additional federal emergency unemployment compensation — or a maximum of 73 weeks. But because of a drop in the state's unemployment rate, workers no longer will be offered the added benefit, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Monday.
The federal law establishing the extra 13 weeks of “Tier 3” benefits requires states to have three-month average seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher. Oklahoma's 5.4 percent rate in March dropped the state average below that threshold, spokesman John Carpenter said.
The agency estimates the change will affect about 300 Oklahomans per week, Carpenter said. Claimants who file for Tier 3 benefits by May 12 still will be eligible for the extra 13 weeks, he said.
When the Tier 3 benefits began in December 2009, the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.3 percent — its highest level in more than 20 years, Carpenter said.
Depending on their former salaries, unemployed Oklahomans still can receive up to $368 a week for 60 weeks. First, they are eligible for up to 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits. When these state benefits are exhausted, they can file for a first round of federal extended “Tier 1” unemployment benefits for up to 20 weeks. And when those run out, they can apply for up to 14 weeks of “Tier 2” federal benefits.
This isn't the first time Tier 3 benefits have triggered off. Benefits were suspended last July but reinstated at the beginning of 2012 when Oklahoma's three-month average seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose above 6 percent again.