SALEM, Ore. — With unemployment claims from thousands of Oregonians still unprocessed following the lay-off boom caused by the state's coronavirus response, Governor Kate Brown announced on Sunday that she has replaced the head of the agency that has struggled to address the backlog.
“In the middle of this pandemic, the continued delays from the Oregon Employment Department in delivering unemployment insurance benefits to thousands of out-of-work Oregonians are unacceptable,” said Governor Brown. “This is an unprecedented crisis, and the problems at the department demand an urgent response. I’d like to thank Director Erickson for her years of service to the State of Oregon, but it is clear that new leadership is needed.”
Brown's office said that she had accepted the resignation of OED director Kay Erickson. David Gerstenfeld, director of the state's Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Division, will serve as interim director for OED.
Just last week, Erickson announced a plan to address the backlog of roughly 38,000 unemployment claims, acknowledging the frustrating circumstances for Oregonians that have been unable to receive benefits despite repeated attempts.
“I have directed the Oregon Employment Department to address the current backlog in unpaid claims, and to clearly communicate the status of any unpaid claims to Oregonians,” said Governor Brown. “In these incredibly stressful times, Oregon families are counting on these benefits. We will make this right. Oregonians will receive the benefits that they are owed.”
According to Brown's office, new interim director Gerstenfeld has served as the leader of OED's Paid Family and Medical Leave Division since September of 2019. Before that, he was director of the Unemployment Insurance Division beginning in 2011. He has worked for the state of Oregon since 1997 after earning a law degree from Lewis and Clark College.