Thousands of unemployed Oklahomans who receive federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits will see their payments reduced by 10.7 percent at the end of March due to sequestration-forced budget cuts.
Regular state-funded unemployment payments will not be affected because of the budget cuts, said John Carpenter, spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, which processes the long-term jobless payments for beneficiaries in the state.
About 5,500 Oklahomans who receive the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation payments will be affected immediately when the benefits are reduced beginning March 31, Carpenter said.
“This is like a freight train — it can't be stopped immediately,” Carpenter said. “This is going to happen no matter what, and there really isn't anything that Congress can do to stop it.”
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission's operations are funded entirely by federal money. The agency has seen its federal funding to administer the emergency compensation program reduced along with benefit payments. But the agency, which has about 700 employees, is not facing any furloughs or layoffs because of the budget cuts, Carpenter said.
While the emergency payments fluctuate from month to month, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission processed about $7.3 million in those payments in January, Carpenter said.
Emergency Unemployment Compensation is a federal program established in 2008 to help the long-term unemployed who have exhausted state unemployment benefits. Eligible claimants can collect the payments for an additional 14 weeks after using up the allotted 26 weeks of Oklahoma unemployment benefits.
The state commission is sending out notices to all active recipients of the emergency payments to alert them to the reduced benefit payments.
Beneficiaries can access additional information and an online calculator to estimate their payment reduction at www.oesc.ok.gov