For the third time in the past year, unemployment benefits have been extended, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission announced Wednesday. The latest benefit extension for eligible Oklahomans who have exhausted their unemployment claims is being funded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009, and provides up to 13 weeks of additional benefits, said John Carpenter with the commission. The provision to extend benefits payments was included in the act to handle the continuing rise in unemployment nationwide, he said. "We’ve known this was a possibility for awhile,” he said. "And it’s certainly good news for the people it applies to.” As many as 9,300 Oklahomans will be immediately affected by the extension, the commission said. "This is to help people who have already run out of their extensions,” Carpenter said. But those who are receiving benefits now but will soon run out also will be evaluated to determine their eligibility for this latest round. The OESC will contact those receiving unemployment benefits by letter and provide further instructions on filing for the new extension. And while the extension of benefits certainly aids individuals, "it’s meant to help the economy as a whole,” Carpenter said. Any additional government assistance through unemployment benefits clearly is positive, said Keith Hazelton, senior vice president and director of economic research at the Oklahoma Bankers Association. "To the extent ARRA 2009 will help states continue to provide at least some income to downsized workers, it will help the overall economy not only by allowing unemployed individuals to maintain some level of spending while job seeking, but also by forestalling their use of savings accounts, retirement savings or additional borrowing via credit cards or home equity loans,” Hazelton said. The downside is fewer than half of the 14.7 million now unemployed nationally, and virtually none of the "underemployed” currently qualify for any government unemployment benefits at all, for a variety of reasons, he said. States that had an average seasonally adjusted unemployment rate 6.0 percent or higher for a three-month period were eligible to offer the extension, the commission said. Oklahoma’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in May, 6.2 percent in April and 5.9 percent in March.
AT A GLANCEWho is eligible for extension Eligibility for this latest round of extended unemployment benefits, called EUC Tier 2, is based on a person’s past claim history, and they must meet the following criteria:
• Unemployed as of July 5.
• Original unemployment claim was exhausted between July 6, 2008, and July 5.
• Not currently receiving unemployment benefits. Those seeking the Tier 2 unemployment extension are advised to file online at unemployment.ok.gov and clicking on the "File for EUC Tier 2 Benefits” link. Online filing is available 24/7. Applicants can also call 525-1500 in the metro area or (800) 555-1554 outside of Oklahoma City. Telephone filing is available only Wednesday, Thursday or Friday each week. The first payable week for Tier 2 claims is the week ending Friday.