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Oregon Employment chief announces plan to address backlogged unemployment claims

Oregon Employment Department director Kay Erickson said that the agency would work to process '100 percent' of the backlogged claims.

Posted: May 26, 2020 10:47 AM

SALEM, Ore. — The head of Oregon's Employment Department unveiled a plan on Tuesday to process the roughly 38,000 backlogged unemployment claims that have piled up since the state's coronavirus countermeasures caused a massive lay-off boom beginning in March.

Despite strides made in additional staffing and claims processing over the past two months, many Oregonians have continued to report a lack of movement on their unemployment claims and difficulty contacting OED for help.

"While the Oregon Employment Department has paid a record number of Oregonians within two to three weeks, for too many Oregonians, their claims are in a backlog," OED director Kay Erickson said in a statement. "We know how frustrating it has been for those who are trying to reach us about the status of their claims and have been unable to get through."

Over the past two weeks, leading lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties have indicted the agency for the backlog, urging action.

Erickson's statement on Tuesday heralded 'Project Focus 100,' an effort to process 100 percent of the backlogged claims through a four-point strategy.

"The goal is straightforward: to process 100 percent of the 38,000 claim backlog as quickly as possible and get Oregonians the relief they need," Erickson said.

The four steps listed by Erickson are as follows:

  1. Continue surge hiring. The department has made good progress getting the staff we need to process claims quickly, increasing by six times the number of people processing claims than were in place before COVID-19 closures began. We continue hiring and training new employees to ensure every Oregonian gets the benefits they’re owed in a timely fashion.
  2. Further focus our experienced professionals on the oldest and most complex claims. For two weeks, from May 29 to June 12, we will increase our outbound calls to resolve claims for those that have been waiting the longest. To do this, our most experienced employees will take time away from answering the phones. We will also temporarily reassign job center employees to take incoming calls to help resolve questions, in all languages, relating to: Address/Phone number changes, looking up customer ID (CID) numbers, re-setting PIN numbers, issues with claiming a week of benefits online (including taking weekly certifications), filing a new claim or processing an internet initial claim (except those with military, federal, or out-of-state wages), re-starting a claim, checking the status of a claim (if unable to use the online claim system).
  3. Increase proactive contact and communication. We’re piloting new ways of contacting Oregonians to let them know where their claims are in the system and to solve problems. We now have pre-recorded phone messages and emails will confirm that we’ve received your PUA claim. We’re also working to add a customer service chat bot to our website.
  4. Use technology to close gaps and improve service. We have identified strategies that move claims out of processing traps that can hang them up. That has already moved thousands of claims through processing. We will continue using these strategies to speed up processing and get Oregonians whose claims have been stuck the benefits they’re owed.

"We continue to add new metrics to our online dashboard so that Oregonians can watch our progress," Erickson said. "We’ll continue to be transparent about where we are and our progress toward our goals. Navigating this crisis is a collective effort, and Oregonians know how to work together to overcome hard challenges. We’ll get through this together."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33509

Reported Deaths: 559
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7274140
Marion477996
Washington461560
Umatilla300441
Clackamas246663
Malheur165030
Lane129317
Jackson11906
Deschutes87312
Yamhill77414
Jefferson5458
Polk53515
Linn53213
Morrow5136
Lincoln48113
Union4462
Benton3286
Wasco2964
Klamath2902
Hood River2520
Douglas2434
Clatsop2210
Josephine2042
Columbia1841
Coos1600
Baker982
Crook631
Tillamook530
Lake340
Wallowa331
Curry320
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant100
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 819115

Reported Deaths: 15885
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2702996576
Riverside594051226
San Bernardino55203955
Orange537511268
San Diego47180783
Kern32073369
Fresno28621390
Sacramento22590416
Alameda21383412
Santa Clara21379322
San Joaquin20411456
Contra Costa16793207
Stanislaus16512362
Tulare16204263
Ventura12875150
Imperial11908320
San Francisco11275104
Monterey1005073
San Mateo9990150
Santa Barbara9164113
Merced8961143
Kings768180
Sonoma7578122
Marin6734119
Solano644571
Madera458368
San Luis Obispo361231
Placer360448
Butte284844
Yolo282855
Santa Cruz239410
Napa172713
Sutter172011
San Benito135211
Yuba11728
El Dorado11514
Mendocino95418
Shasta94320
Lassen7410
Glenn5963
Tehama5855
Lake56611
Nevada5417
Colusa5356
Humboldt5128
Calaveras32214
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18815
Mono1662
Siskiyou1660
Del Norte1441
Mariposa762
Plumas500
Modoc270
Trinity160
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
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