The federal program paid out $289.2 million to Oklahomans in emergency unemployment benefits in 2011, according to the commission. It has paid almost $162 million in benefits so far in 2012.
If Congress doesn't act to renew the program, the last date to file or reopen a claim for extended benefits will be Dec. 23. Final payments under the program will be Dec. 29, the commission said.
Carpenter said the worst option would be for Congress to let the program expire, then come back and renew it in early 2013. That would cause confusion and hardship for claimants and burden the commission in its administration of the program, he said.
“In the past, they've let it expire and then renewed it,” Carpenter said. “That's really the most unattractive option for claimants. Our programmers then have to change the database to reflect the changes, which is a waste of resources.”
In Oklahoma, weekly unemployment benefits range from $16 to $368, depending on a claimant's pay level and longevity at their last job. Benefits come from unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers.
For more information on the emergency benefits program, go to oesc.ok.gov and click on the “Unemployment Benefits” link or call (800) 555-1554.