The end is near...Next Saturday, June 26th (06-26-21) the additional Federal unemployment benefits will expire in the state of Oklahoma. If you're currently collecting unemployment after the 26th of this month you'll lose that extra $300 per week you've been receiving. Back in May Governor Kevin Stitt along with representatives from the OESC (Oklahoma Employment Security Commission) announced that they would be cancelling those extra weekly payments. Instead they'll offer a "Back to Work" cash incentive for Oklahomans who return to the workforce. They've just expanded the program so that more people will qualify!

The changes were made to the "Back to Work" $1,200 incentive or cash bonus last week on Thursday, June 10th (06-10-21). It was announced that Oklahomans who have 2 part time jobs that total at least 32 hours per week and who have been employed for a minimum of 6 weeks consecutively would now qualify for the program. There's a lot of people who hold down 2 part time jobs, or who may be looking for their second part time job that would benefit from this. It's all in an effort to get people back to work and off unemployment.

The state will use Federal aid money to give $1,200 bonuses to those who find work and get off unemployment. It's limited and you have to qualify for it, but around 20,000 Oklahomans will receive the bonus for finding employment. So why is Oklahoma 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 in the state the workforce is lacking.

There's a staffing shortage across the state, including right here in Lawton, Fort Sill. Basically people are staying on unemployment instead of finding jobs. Most are 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.

Some people agree, others don't, especially if you're on unemployment right now. It's created a lot of concern and controversy. 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 $300 benefit that were being paid during the pandemic, not regular unemployment.

I know in Lawton we're definitely facing a serious staffing shortage. If you've been to any restaurant or store lately you know what I'm talking about. You've probably noticed longer waits in restaurants and a lack of customer service in most local stores and retail outlets. This is due to the staffing shortage that a lot of local and area businesses are struggling with. There are even some places in town that are having to shut down temporally for a day or two a week just to give what little staff they do have a much needed break.

Time is running out. If you're currently collecting unemployment you'll be losing that extra $300 a week starting next Saturday, June 26th (06-26-21).

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