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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Unofficial tally puts the number of Oklahomans who filed initial claims for unemployment insurance at 45,000 last week

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About 45,000 Oklahomans applied for unemployment compensation during the week ending March 28.

That preliminary estimate was provided Monday by Robin Roberson, executive director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Roberson stressed the estimate is an unofficial tally of claims taken both by the commission’s online application site,, and by people handling claims filed over the phone at 1-800-555-1554.

The state’s official count for that week won’t be released until Thursday, when the U.S. Department of Labor publishes numbers for each state and territory in the nation.

Also Monday, Roberson said she executed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor Saturday that will allow the commission to access dollars included in the CARES Act of 2021 to further help Oklahomans impacted by the coronavirus.

The measure signed into law by President Trump includes dollars both to extend unemployment insurance benefits to idled workers and to offer unemployment insurance benefits to self-employed people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for assistance.

“We don’t yet know how much Oklahoma will receive or how it should be administered,” Roberson said. “We are working on all those things.”

Roberson said Monday that both the commission’s online and phone application portals are stressed by volumes, stating that at least some users on both have been getting dropped, at times.

She urged people who are calling to just get general questions answered to instead visit to look for those answers.

Officials said last week that 17,720 Oklahomans filed claims during the week that ended March 21, up more than 15,800 from the week prior.

Across the nation, nearly 3.3 million workers sought initial assistance, a jump of nearly 3 million that reflected more than a 1,000% increase.

Before last week, the largest number of initial claims for a week ever recorded nationally had been 695,000 in October 1982.

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Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›