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Ardmore hosts 2 days of assistance for unemployment claimants, extended benefits available

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Ardmore will host two days of events meant to help Oklahomans with their unemployment claims. The events are expected to help up to 1,200 claimants during an ongoing pandemic that has caused historic unemployment numbers across the state and nation.

The Ardmore events were announced the same week state unemployment officials announced an extended benefits program for claimants. Under the State Extended Benefits program announced Monday, claimants may receive up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Those seeking help at the Ardmore events must first secure a pass for either today or Thursday. About 600 passes remained on Tuesday afternoon and will be available today, according to a spokesperson with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

The events will be held at the Ardmore Convention Center on Wednesday and Thursday, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day. Face coverings will be required and social distancing will be encouraged.

To help staff the events, OESC offices in Ardmore, Ada and Durant offices will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. Previous events held in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have provided assistance to about 8,000 Oklahomans, according to an OESC statement last week.

Assistance will be available for new and ongoing claims, including support for payment cards and suspected fraud. Passes will be numbered and some people may be asked to return later in the day for assistance. When receiving a pass, more information about required documents will be available. 

On Monday, OESC announced the State Extended Benefits program. The program is only for those eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits and not necessarily for those claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or other benefits.

“This extraordinary time has triggered this benefit for the first time in almost 40 years,” said interim OESC Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt in Monday's announcement. “The pandemic has caused continued unemployment for many Oklahomans above and beyond what is traditionally outlined by the Oklahoma Employment Security Act.”

While initial and continued unemployment claims have steadily dropped through the first two weeks of July, numbers remain near historic highs as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pummel the labor force. Initial claims have fallen sharply in July, down from a revised 18,405 at the end of June to 8,579 for the week ending July 18.

Continued claims followed a similar trend, falling from a revised 165,298 at the end of June to an unadjusted 118,589 for the week ending July 18. Despite the dramatic drops, which have also sent less volatile seven-day averages down, both initial and continued claims remain at levels more than ten times higher since the pandemic’s onset. 

June unemployment data is expected to be released today, while updated weekly unemployment claims for the week ending July 25 are expected to be released on Thursday.