The Pryor Times

Local News

February 25, 2010

Unemployment tiers bring tears

A sense of panic is passing among the more than 75,000 Oklahomans, including those in Pryor, who receive unemployment benefits. News reports last week said the well had run dry.

In an interview about unemployment and Congress having extended benefits three times in the last year, Stacy Dunagan with

the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission (OESC) made a comment about the next “tier” deadline. The term “tier” refers to an extension. The next deadline is Feb. 27.

“Come the first week in March, basically, whatever monies that they’re on, whether it be a state claim, first extension, second or third, that’s it. Once they draw that money, it’s exhausted. There’s no more,” she said.

Karen Becker, Pryor, knew nothing about the announcement until she called the unemployment hotline to update her weekly claim.

“After I’d entered my claim information, the automated system basically told me that my benefits would end on March 6,” she said. “I was shocked and really pretty fearful.”

She was also confused because a few weeks ago, she’d filed for her second extension. It was approved and she’d received a letter stating that her benefits had been extended through May.

Becker, a single mother, was laid off from Gatorade in December 2008. It’s not been an easy year.

“I’ve actively looked for a job for over a year in this area and surrounding areas, but haven’t found anything,” Becker said. She’d held out a bit of hope that she might be called to return to her previous job at Gatorade. All of that changed last week, when the plant closed its doors for good.

With many like Karen confused and scared that benefits were coming to an

abrupt end, Unemployment Insurance Director Jerry Pectol immediately responded to help clarify the statement from Dunagan that, according to Marsha Cunningham, OESC Manager at Pryor Workforce Center, were “not exactly correct.”

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