Around The County

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

OESC offers extension of benefit availability

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) has announced the State Extended Benefits (SEB) program, which provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants.

“This extraordinary time has triggered this benefit for the first time in almost 40 years,” said OESC Interim Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt. “The pandemic has caused continued unemployment for many Oklahomans above and beyond what is traditionally outlined by the Oklahoma Employment Security Act. We will continue to work with claimants to ensure they’re able to access benefits and answer any questions.”

In order for Oklahomans to receive these benefits, individuals must exhaust regular UI and the CARES Act extension PEUC benefits. In addition, SEB is only available for individuals who were eligible for regular UI claims. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants are not eligible for SEB.

“The State’s Unemployment Trust Fund, paid into by Oklahoma employers, pays benefits to individuals receiving regular UI benefits,” Zumwalt said. “Because of this, SEB will not be available for self-employed, contract, and gig workers utilizing the federally-funded PUA program.”

In most cases, unemployment claims will automatically change from PEUC to SEB. If a claim’s benefit year ends while receiving PEUC or SEB, a new regular UI claim must be established.

It should also be noted that SEB maximum entitlement is based on the lesser of three calculations so some individuals may not receive 13 weeks of benefits.

Assistance can be found at OESC’s 27 regional offices, which are continuing to see claimants in person — with masks required and social distancing in effect. Regional office staff also can assist claimants over the phone via their local office number. Please visit https://oesc.ok.gov/oesc-office-location-finder for all American Job Center locations in Oklahoma.

SUMMER READING

Reading activities still offered

Summer Reading continues at Pawhuska Public Library. Activities are in place into August:

• Story Time continues through Aug. 13 on Thursday mornings, 10:30 - 11:15 a.m. Stories and crafts will be program elements. The library has prizes and books to give to story time participants!

• The Oklahoma City Zoo “Read for Adventure” contest began July 8 and continues: check out the book “Juniper’s Butterfly Garden.” When the book is returned, the child receives four free passes to the OKC Zoo. Passes may be used for kids, adults, or seniors.

Major sponsors of Summer Reading are the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Sonic Corporation, The Oklahoman, and the OKC Zoo.

Library Director Yvonne Rose said the library has also received new books for adults, including best sellers, that are available for use. If you have questions or need assistance from the library, call 918-287-3989 and speak with a member of the staff.

COVID-19 ALERT SYSTEM

State health department offers COVID-19 risk level tool

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) recently launched a new COVID-19 alert system that offers the public and local elected officials a clear method to recognize and communicate the current COVID-19 risk level in each county and to guide health behaviors.

The Oklahoma COVID-19 Alert System is a four-tiered risk measurement tool with corresponding color categories that identify the current COVID-19 risk level by county.

“This new COVID-19 alert system marries OSDH’s robust data reporting with additional public health steps that should be considered county by county to confront elevated risks of community spread,” said Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye, M.D. “The color-coded system is an easy way for business owners, local leaders, and the public to know at a glance when extra precautions should be taken.”

Each color category is based on daily new cases per 100,000 persons. The color-coded county map will be updated every Friday as part of the agency’s 11 a.m. Situation Media Advisory and will be based on the seven-day rolling average:

Green: 0 1.43 daily new cases per 100,000 persons;

Yellow: 43 14.39 daily new cases per 100,000 persons;

Orange: > 14.39 daily new cases per 100,000 persons;

Red: > 14.39 daily new cases per 100,000 persons, plus one of four additional gates triggered.

OSDH will deem a county as in a high-risk phase if the county is reporting more than 14.39 daily new cases per 100,000 and one or more of the four thresholds occur in the state within a given week.

Statewide ICU threshold: Percent of ICU beds available 5% statewide;

Statewide Medical/Surgical threshold: Percent of medical surgery beds available 5% statewide;

Statewide ventilator threshold: Percent of ventilators available 5% statewide;

Facility PPE threshold: Average days of PPE on hand and available 5 days statewide.

The state will work with local officials in red counties on a remediation plan.

The red phase is triggered when additionally assessing statewide health system capacity definitions, assumptions and plans in the Oklahoma Hospital Surge Planning Toolkit, and with assessing numbers based on hospitals’ bed capacity at 100%. This status indicates statewide, systemic challenges and pressures on the health care system resulting from COVID-19.

This new alert system is subject to further revisions. Guidance for each risk category is available for individuals, businesses, high-risk individuals, and children on the COVID-19 dashboard at coronavirus.health.ok.gov.