Whether it's affected you directly or someone in your family, chances are the financial hardships of the COVID pandemic hit close to home. The unprecedented public health and resulting economic situation led the federal government to send out three separate stimulus payments since the spring of 2020. And now that COVID cases are on the decline and vaccination rates are rising, some governors are looking to find ways to roll out more money to their residents to get their local economies back up and running. On May 10, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, for example, proposed a plan to give any household that earns up to $75,000 an extra check for $600, with an additional $500 to families who have dependents. This week, another state announced its own plan to send additional $1,200 checks to residents who meet certain requirements. Read on to find out where and whether or not you're eligible.
Oklahoma is offering $1,200 to unemployed workers.
If you're unemployed in Oklahoma, nailing down a job soon may lead to even more money in your pocket. The state is offering to give a one-time $1,200 check to people who get off unemployment benefits and start working, per an executive order signed by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. The payments will begin in July and come from President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan, per USA Today.
"This is the right move for Oklahoma," Stitt said in a statement about what he's calling the Return to Work Incentive. "Since our state has been open for business since last June, the biggest challenge facing Oklahoma businesses today is not reopening, it's finding employees. … I am committed to doing what I can to help Oklahomans get off the sidelines and into the workforce."
However, the offer is only good for a limited amount of people.
The Return to Work Incentive will provide $1,200 checks to the first 20,000 Oklahomans currently receiving unemployment benefits who return to the workforce and apply. This means you must have had an active employment claim for at least one week between May 2 and 15, as well as accepted an offer of employment in the state of Oklahoma for at least 32 hours a week or more. You must also complete six weeks of your new job to actually qualify and apply for the program. Further eligibility criteria is available on the state's website.
According to the state department, the signup page for the Return to Work Incentive will open on June 28.
Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans are currently receiving pandemic-related unemployed benefits.
Shelley Zumwalt, executive director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC), told USA Today that around 200,000 Oklahomans are eligible for work but don't have a job and around 90,000 are currently receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides $300 a week to unemployed individuals.
"Every employer I speak with, inside or outside of the state, is struggling to recruit workers," Chad Warmington, president and CEO of The State Chamber, said in a statement accompanying the incentive announcement. "While federal programs provided needed benefits at the height of the pandemic when businesses were forced to shutter, these benefits have now incentivized workers to remain on unemployment after we have safely reopened our economy… Gov. Stitt recognizes there is no government program that can provide the same potential for individual economic freedom as a fully functioning private business can."
And those COVID unemployment benefits will be ending next month.
Stitt's new order is giving Oklahomans relying on pandemic-related unemployment a kickstart to find a job before these benefits end. "All federal benefits will end June 26, 2021, giving Oklahomans six weeks' notice of termination," the order states. This includes the FPUC, as well as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which extended unemployment benefits past 26 weeks; the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provided benefits to workers who don't typically qualify; and the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), which provided an additional $100 per week to certain self-employed individuals.
According to USA Today, only traditional unemployment payments that existed prior to the pandemic will be available for out-of-work Oklahomans after June 27.
"OESC is placing top priority on helping claimants find stable employment or retraining opportunities," Zumwalt said in a statement accompanying the order. "We have 28 offices across the state ready to help all of the state's citizens who are eligible to work but currently are not working and the hundreds of employers who are struggling to find employees."