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OESC Advised to Hold Remaining Lost Wages Assistance Distribution, Pending Federal Legislation

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) announced that Oklahoma will hold on distribution of the remaining Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) funding, pending federal legislation that may require these funds be returned. Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt issued the following statement: 

“The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program has been overseen by two federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Labor and FEMA. This arrangement is unlike the CARES Act programs passed earlier this year and the LWA program stands alone as an anomaly in the way it is structured and overseen. We have been in communication with both of these federal agencies and have received conflicting guidance from them about the path forward for distributing LWA funds. 

Oklahoma has funds remaining due to the effort the agency put forth when LWA was originally distributed to get people back to work, lower claims volumes and stop fraud. Because of these actions, claims volumes dropped significantly from the estimate that was forecasted. We had hoped that, as a result of this effort, the state would be able to again provide assistance to claimants with these funds. To be clear, through sound fiscal management the state of Oklahoma saved over $50 million.

We are in communication with FEMA and our federal partners to determine the next steps forward for the remaining funding. As of right now, we are holding the distribution of additional LWA funds, pending the passage of legislation being discussed at the federal level. If new federal legislation is passed and a new federal unemployment relief package reaches Oklahomans, it will be clear that OESC will return the funds to FEMA. Based on the guidance we received about these federal packages, there is a possibility that distributing remaining LWA funds could be seen as an overpayment that would have to be recalled and returned. We do not want to put Oklahomans in this position, so OESC will hold on starting to process these payments until we have a definite answer about the future of LWA funds.”