A lawsuit has been filed against the Executive Director of the OESC (Oklahoma Employment Security Commission) that challenges all the changes Oklahoma made to the additional Federal unemployment aide in the state. Last month on (06-26-21) Governor Kevin Stiit ended the extra $300 weekly payments that people on unemployment were receiving and instead used the money to fund a back to work cash incentive.

The back to work cash incentive pays a one time bonus of $1,200 to people who find jobs, either full or part time and get off of unemployment. It's a limited program, for a limited amount of time and people have to qualify for the payout. Around 20,000 Oklahomans will receive the bonus. They recently changed the incentive to include part time jobs and people who have multiple jobs vs. one full time position.

The lawsuit challenges the legality of the changes and whether or not Gov. Stitt had the authority to make the changes and cancel the extra benefits along with the OESC. Since the benefits are being paid by the Federal government and a part of the "American Rescue Plan." People on unemployment were receiving an additional $300 weekly along with the standard unemployment benefits throughout the pandemic. The extra payments were set to run until September 2021, but several governors have already expired the payments in their state.

So why are they doing this? Well, if you've been out and about lately you've seen all the "Help Wanted" signs. Just about everyone is hiring and now that businesses are opened back up and the economy is improving the workforce is lacking. There's a staffing shortage across the country and state, including right here in Lawton, Fort Sill. Basically people were staying on unemployment instead of finding jobs. Most were making more money not working. It's gotten so bad that a lot of businesses are facing an all new challenge, trying to stay open with limited to no staff.

The big argument is that if state and Federal assistance and unemployment pays more than working, then employers should pay more and provide better salaries and a living wage. This is only true if you add in the extra benefits that were paid during the pandemic, the same can not be said for regular unemployment. We'll see where this lawsuit goes and if it changes anything as far as returning extra unemployment benefits in Oklahoma.

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