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Gov Stitt ends increased unemployment benefits for struggling Oklahomans

by Nate Morris

Governor Kevin Stitt on Monday announced the state would stop supplying the additional federal unemployment payments to out-of-work Oklahomans.  Starting June 26th, unemployed residents can expect to see the extra $300 per week come to an end.

The state announced the decision as a means of incentivizing Oklahomans to go back into the workforce.  OESC Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt explained part of the reasoning was due to a perceived lack of interest in job openings.

Zumwalt said at a recent job fair, there were 7500 openings available, “but only 200 people came”.

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Conservative states look to end unemployment

The decision by conservative-led states to roll back the additional benefits months before they expire has sparked controversy. Advocates for the continuation of extended benefits note working families face unprecedented times and call on employers to increase wages as the economy recovers.  According to data from Zip-recruiter, the majority of low-skilled jobs in the state have an average annual salary of less than $29,000.

Likewise, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to indicate that enhanced unemployment benefits are not dis-incentivizing people from entering the workforce. The April 2021 jobs report showed 6.6 million unemployed Americans indicated they want to find a job; 1.6 million more than in February 2020, before the pandemic.

Stitt used money from Biden policy he fought against to improve Oklahoma economy

Stitt’s administration did announce a one-time, $1200 financial incentive to get people off of unemployment and back to work. The final qualifications have not yet been announced, but Stitt plans to use funding from the American Rescue Plan to pay for it.

Interestingly, the governor bemoaned this very source of funding in a campaign email to supporters late last week. Calling the ARP a “radical liberal policy”, Stitt blamed Biden for (among other things) the Chick-fil-A sauce shortage. The email urged supporters to donate to the governor’s re-election bid as a “last line of defense”. 

State Representative Forrest Bennet shot back at the decision on Twitter

“One way to get folks off unemployment is to just end the program and wish everyone well,” Bennett wrote.

“House Dems have proposed a different strategy; one where we make sure childcare is affordable, healthcare is accessible, and wages are livable. Me personally, I like our plan better.”

Stitt said his decision was made, in part, because “COVID is no longer an emergency in the state of Oklahoma.”

Nearly 8400 Oklahomans have lost their lives to the virus since the pandemic began and fewer than a third of residents are fully vaccinated.

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1 comment

gregbreakpointgmailcom May 17, 2021 - 7:46 pm

Gov Stitt employs a special highly effective dog whistle, I call Rin Tin Tinnitus, some of us older folks will remember the old canine hero TV series. He is a master at racist dog whistles “We don’t want to stop the teaching of the racist history of Oklahoma” . A constant whistling in the ears tells the MAGA MOB doing so is a message that he is doing exactly that;, suppressing the reality of rampant racism in Oklahoma today.

Another Rin Tin Tinnitus is his blaming unemployment of the shortage of Chick-Fila “hetero” sauce. Another signat to his base that he stands with organized gay baiting. The $7.50 an hour that unemployment pays that he is cancelling, is not enough for anyone to live on as it is. Oklahoma has a history of institutional wage slavery where our local companies, rather than giving promotions or regular raises they tend to lay off workers who are in line to be paid more. This is a fact of working here that everyone knows but is numb to.

The truth is many have changed careers due to the lessons of COVID. Working in hospitality proved to have zero job security or benefits so many have moved to the Amazon and other warehouse jobs that start at $15 per hour with instant medical. Eliminating Unemployment will not force people back to work in under paid industries, we have figured out what Lose, Lose means, with the only benefits going to the top income “owners” of businesses.

The other reason is the return of an ancient narrative from my youth in the ’50’s and ’60’s of the Communist menace. FOX and MAGA radio have again started the steady drumbeat of” Marxism is destroying America”. Of course this wasn’t true then and is less true now but it is all they have got. The BLM marchers are Communists, repeated over and over. Antifa is Marxist if you analyze their writings (quoting Mark Vermin, MAGA radio fraud), except there are no writings from a disorganized anarchist group. Just laughable, The attack on the Capital in DC was let by Anfifa not Trump supporters, riiight….And hurting families by eliminating Unemployment is fighting Marxism. If you give money away to those who earned it by working all their lives and paying into the UI fund, you will encourage Socialism. What bull dooky.

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