Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Ready for Unemployment Claims Hike

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Ready for Unemployment Claims Hike

Article excerpt

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By Lou Anne Wolfe Officials at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission are poised to handle the expected influx of applications for unemployment compensation by laid-off Tinker Air Force Base employees, Executive Director Bob Funston said Tuesday.

At the commission's regular meeting, Funston said the agency would use group techniques to process unemployment applicants.

The Air Force said it would lay off at least 2,196 workers from Tinker. An additional contemplated layoff could bring the number to 4,400, the Air Force said, but a final decision has not been announced.

The civilian workforce at the Oklahoma City base numbers 16,900 employees.

Sue Havens, chief of benefits for the commission, said the agency is much more automated than in the past.

"We'll try to work with their (Tinker's) computer department on an information exchange," she said.

Already, two contact people have been designated at Tinker to coordinate the records and disseminate information on job placement, training and unemployment insurance benefits, she said.

Booklets and information are available from the commission, Havens said.

"We do most everything in group processing, and occasionally go onsite," she said, adding that would be a possibility with the Tinker situation.

The Oklahoma Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which stood at $394.6 million at Oct. 31, is in good shape to handle the demand, Funston said. Havens said every dollar paid out of the trust fund by the state for federal civilian employee claims is reimbursed by the federal government with about a three-month delay.

The commission bills the federal government on a quarterly basis for the claims, she said.

The average weekly unemployment benefit amount in Oklahoma is $145, and the average length of time an individual draws unemployment is 19 weeks, Havens said.

"I suspect that for Tinker employees, the weekly maximum would differ from individual to individual, based on earnings," she said. …

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