Oklahoma Governor ends federal unemployment early, offers return to work incentive

Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The extra money coming in from Washington for those on unemployment will soon be coming to an end some 2 months before scheduled following Governor Kevin Stitt’s announcement on Monday.

The Governor says it’s time to get Oklahomans back to work and he is prepared to pay them a bonus to do it. But opponents say it’s the wrong move as many are still struggling with the effects of the pandemic.

“Our challenge is not to get business back open, we’ve done that. It’s been getting employees back to work,” said Governor Kevin Stitt.

Governor Kevin Stitt announcing a plan that will end the $300 weekly federal benefit in 6 weeks for Oklahomans currently on unemployment, affecting close to 70,000 unemployed workers in the state.

“The federal government has created an incentive to stay at home instead of getting back into the work force,” said Stitt.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission saying that State unemployment will still be issued. Officials say in order to motivate Oklahomans to get back into the work force, the state will offer a $1,200 bonus to the first 20,000 Oklahomans to reenter the job market.

But not all lawmakers agree with cutting the federal benefits some 2 and a half months early.

“It’s not that people aren’t working, its that’s they have found better jobs and better opportunities for themselves and families,” said Rep. Mickey Dollens.

The Democrat from Oklahoma City is pointing to the more than 10,000 new jobs in the marijuana industry alone. He says unemployment numbers in Oklahoma are below the national average and not much higher than pre-COVID levels.

“I think this is more of a common agenda across Republican led states, where they want to cut unemployment benefits to soon,” said Dollens.

Dollens say it’s up to employers to motivate Oklahomans with better job offers. Business leaders firing back.

“Employers are offering competitive wages and generous benefits and it still hasn’t moved the needle when they are forced to compete with the federal government,” said Chad Warmington of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce.

Reaction mixed as the OESC put on a job fair today in Downtown OKC.

“It’s more fun to stay at home and go to the park and hang out with your friends than it is to work,” said Becky Chapman, Owner of the OKC and Tulsa Melting Pot Restaurants.

“I think it’s a big mistake because there are a lot of people out here still struggling. People don’t understand with all this money they think it’s easy no you go live in our shoes they couldn’t handle it 5 minutes,” said Janet Reel, an unemployed OKC resident.

The Governor says the $24 million that will be used for bonuses will come from the federal money each state gets for the pandemic, the American Rescue Fund. The end day for the federal benefits will be June 26th. The OESC will hold another job fair in OKC on Tuesday.

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