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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.

Cases: 387485

Reported Deaths: 5116
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah59768836
Washington41571393
Marion39592504
Clackamas32426376
Lane29856354
Jackson24672350
Deschutes23182185
Umatilla15087180
Linn14488178
Douglas13236286
Josephine10057240
Yamhill9665142
Klamath8979145
Polk813698
Benton605137
Malheur591586
Coos5573106
Columbia423855
Jefferson416865
Lincoln357252
Union336854
Crook330156
Wasco314846
Clatsop258335
Baker217531
Tillamook214345
Hood River211337
Morrow197025
Curry190136
Harney119332
Grant108314
Lake104016
Wallowa74713
Sherman1903
Gilliam1844
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5060666

Reported Deaths: 74152
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152491227121
San Diego4047084319
Riverside3849455306
San Bernardino3718825944
Orange3329505675
Sacramento1674002423
Kern1565171781
Fresno1558992246
Santa Clara1511691922
Alameda1246581504
San Joaquin1070001833
Ventura1036461188
Contra Costa1032921045
Stanislaus912991413
Tulare856141082
San Francisco56614669
San Mateo56058629
Monterey52340625
Solano47422356
Santa Barbara47035548
Merced44807664
Sonoma42912412
Placer41881468
Imperial38128769
Kings35038358
San Luis Obispo31294358
Madera26005311
Shasta25917440
Butte25295309
Santa Cruz22028222
Yolo21451257
Marin18342248
El Dorado18166161
Sutter14494181
Napa13372104
Yuba1070088
Tehama10230129
Humboldt10043117
Nevada9914103
Mendocino848894
Lassen792355
San Benito775977
Tuolumne767790
Lake6990110
Amador573766
Siskiyou470954
Glenn455136
Calaveras435685
Del Norte371242
Colusa323519
Inyo254345
Plumas19127
Mono18294
Mariposa156718
Trinity98817
Modoc7475
Unassigned2430
Sierra2170
Alpine1060
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