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Oklahoma Joins Growing Number Of Republican-Led States Opting Out Of Federal Unemployment Benefits

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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday announces a return to work incentive and an end to federal unemployment assistance.

During a press conference Monday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits will be coming to an end in Oklahoma.

"I will be issuing an executive order to create a $1,200 incentive for anyone who gets off unemployment and goes back to work," Stitt said. "To make this possible, federal benefits will end June 26th… that gives people six weeks to get back in the game."

Oklahoma joins with several Republican-led states in planning to leave the federal government’s supplemental unemployment benefits program, which provides an extra $300 a week to the unemployed.

Republican officials claim the payments disincentivize workers to get back on the job, but Democratic lawmakers denounced the move.

"Rejecting federal unemployment benefits before they expire this September is shortsighted and punitive. There is no proof that these benefits are contributing to a worker shortage," said Rep. Mickey Dollens of Oklahoma City. "Even while many schools haven’t fully reopened and childcare facilities have long waiting lists, Oklahoma’s unemployment rates are relatively low — right around where they were in 2017 and a little higher than they were in 2019 pre-pandemic."

Neighboring states Texas and Arkansas will cease payments on June 26th as well. Montana, South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama have also announced they're opting-out of federal unemployment assistance early.

June 12th is the earliest date states are allowed to leave the program. Nationally, the extended federal unemployment benefits will expire in September.

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