There's been a lot of talk and speculation about Oklahoma ending the additional $300 a week unemployment benefit. The rumors are true, the extra Federal aid with unemployment benefits will end next month on Saturday, June 26th (06-26-21). If you're currently collecting unemployment after the 26th of next month you'll lose that extra $300 per week you've been receiving.

The "American Rescue Plan" was designed to assist Americans who experienced job loss throughout the pandemic. It has also been used to help people who are still looking for employment, but due to all the shut downs and poor economy have been unable to do so.

There are roughly 90,000 Oklahomans currently on unemployment, most due to the pandemic. Since the state will be ending the additional $300 weekly aid Governor Stitt announced that Oklahoma is providing a bonus or incentive to people who return to work. 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. Click here for the official press release.

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.

During the press conference and release Governor Stitt stated: “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. For Oklahoma to become a Top Ten state, workforce participation must be at a top level and I am committed to doing what I can to help Oklahomans get off the sidelines and into the workforce.”

Some people agree, others don't, especially if you're on unemployment right now. The announcement and the signing of the executive order last week has 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 benefits that were paid during the pandemic, the same can not be said for 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. There's a sign on the door at Mike's Sports Grille announcing that they would be closed Tuesday to give the staff a break. Like many places they're having trouble finding people willing to work.

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