Federal unemployment benefits for people unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic were suspended in Oklahoma, pending an injunction by District Judge Anthony Bonner Jr., who also ordered the state to notify the Labor Department. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt halted the benefits as part of his efforts to ease the state’s financial crisis caused by the coronavirus. But conservatives and economists disagreed, saying that the benefits discouraged people from returning to work. Despite the injunction, the state did announce a one-time return-to-work incentive payment worth $1,200.
CARES Act provided unemployment assistance for workers unable to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic
The CARES Act is a part of the nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package signed into law on March 27, 2020. The law provides unemployment assistance for workers who are out of work for a COVID-19-related reason. The Act also provides additional administrative funds to help state unemployment insurance agencies handle the crisis. Unemployment insurance is provided to millions of unemployed workers nationwide.
Regardless of whether you’re a full-time employee or self-employed, you may be eligible for unemployment assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act provides unemployment assistance to workers who are unable to work because of the pandemic. If you are self-employed, you’ll have to prove that you’re unable to work. For religious workers, however, this act provides assistance.
In addition to employees who can’t find a job due to the pandemic, people who were impacted by the virus are eligible for COVID-19 benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike in unemployment benefits, and many were affected. Many businesses were closed or partially closed due to the virus, leaving the public without a steady income.
While the CARES Act was designed to provide assistance for the unemployed, the government is now expanding its eligibility for unemployment benefits. Under the CARES Act, workers unable to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic can now receive benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. As of March 19, more than one million Americans were unable to work because of the pandemic. They were eligible for 79 weeks of PUA benefits from the federal government, but those benefits are reduced if you already received state unemployment insurance and/or federal Extended Benefits.
The CARES Act also allows individuals who were unable to work because of the COVIDS-19 pandemic to qualify for PUA benefits. PUA benefits are designed to be short-term. Individuals who are unable to work for at least two weeks must apply for PUA benefits each week. This is due to the fact that each state implements the CARES Act differently.
The Oklahoma legislature has violated federal statutes and cost principles by diverting funds for employer health insurance premiums to state programs for higher education. These funds were authorized by federal legislation for authorized programmatic purposes. As a result, the state failed to apply those funds for self-insurance or to administer the program. Instead, state officials have diverted the funds to higher education, removing the premiums from the Clearing Fund.
The state of Oklahoma is primarily responsible for administering the federally approved underground storage tank program, but the EPA retains its authority to exercise its enforcement, inspection, and corrective action authority under subtitle I of the RCRA and other applicable statutory and regulatory provisions. However, the state has not acted to comply with these rules and has continued to defraud federal funds. This makes it difficult for Oklahoma to use federal funds effectively.
HB1566 was passed by Oklahoma lawmakers in May 2015 and directed the state to solicit proposals from private insurers to manage Medicaid. The proposals were submitted by 23 “outside parties,” including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, which claimed to save $450 million in five years. However, the state’s Medicaid managed care program was canceled mid-2017, leaving Oklahoma as one of the twelve states without a managed care organization.
Oklahoma is waiting for the CMS to approve a Medicaid work requirement waiver. The Biden administration has already rescinded all Medicaid work requirement waivers in other states. Therefore, Oklahoma will likely not pursue this program as long as the Trump administration is in office. However, the state will not be able to implement its Medicaid work requirement until after the Biden administration leaves office. This means that the state will be unable to expand Medicaid coverage.
The state of Oklahoma recently ended pandemic unemployment benefits. The state Employment Security Commission gave claimants six weeks’ notice before the federal unemployment benefits were eliminated. During the six weeks, claimants were required to work at least thirty-two hours a week, and they had to be employed by a specific date. This change has caused panic among unemployment claimants. But the state is not out of options.
Among the states that have decided to end the federal jobless benefits early are Texas, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Along with Oklahoma, seventeen Republican-led states have already cut back or discontinued the federal jobless assistance programs. As a result, nearly 3.7 million laid-off Americans will lose jobless payments in June and forgo nearly $22 billion in benefits. But the change is not as drastic as many fear.
In the state of Arkansas, more than 4,000 people filed for benefits before the federal government forced states to cut back on the benefits. But that didn’t solve the problem of unpaid unemployment benefits. In Indiana and Maryland, workers have won court rulings over the decision to cut off aid. And in South Carolina, the Supreme Court rejected the governor’s order to end unemployment aid. Meanwhile, in Arkansas, the state legislature has enacted retroactive changes to its state law.
In June, the federal government approved the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. This program provides states with an additional $300 weekly payment. However, the program is only funded for the next six weeks. Therefore, claims filed prior to June 19 will continue to be processed under federal programs. Meanwhile, the ADOL reinstated the work search requirement for all claimants. In other words, if you are out of work, it’s better to find another job than to remain unemployed.
State and federal assistance paid out since March 2020
Governor Baker recently announced that over $109 million in Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Act (COVID-19) funding would be distributed to four communities. These communities are Chelsea, Everett, Methuen, and Randolph. The CARES Act directs the Treasury to use data from the U.S. Census Bureau in making payments to eligible local governments. The communities must provide the required certifications to Treasury before receiving any payments.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allocated $350 billion for the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The ARPA funds include $350 billion for Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Massachusetts is expected to receive $115 billion from the federal government. The money will be provided through three mechanisms: targeted aid administered by the Commonwealth, flexible federal aid to the Commonwealth, and state and local fiscal recovery funds.
Legal battle over benefits continues
The legal battle over benefits continues in Oklahoma, with some people claiming the state has deprived them of much-needed assistance. Some have sued the state, alleging that the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission acted without authority to deny benefits. The state is appealing the ruling, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted an emergency motion to stay the order. The court ruled that the lawsuit had been filed too late and the benefits had been discontinued.
A group of unemployed Oklahomans is trying to force the state to reinstate federal relief programs, which subsidized their unemployment benefits. The lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt was filed by unemployed Oklahomans, and the district court ruled in their favor. The state appealed the lower court’s decision, but in mid-August, the state’s high court said it did not have to reinstate benefits during the appeals process.
The lawsuit against Stitt also names the state’s Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt. The woman claims that Stitt had no authority to discontinue benefits and is violating state law. Her lawsuit also seeks attorneys’ fees and a preliminary injunction reinstating benefits while the lawsuit is pending. The suit also asks for the award of court costs and an injunction preventing Stitt from taking any action against the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.