SALEM, Ore. — Despite laid-off Oregonians continuing to struggle with getting through to file an unemployment claim, or perhaps because of it, the Oregon Employment Department reports a lower number of initial claims filed over the fourth week following the COVID-19 lay-off boom.
Over the week of April 5 through April 11, OED says it received 53,800 initial claims for unemployment benefits. It received 243,000 claims over the previous three weeks, revised from an original report of almost 270,000.
The agency said that it's still working to get as many Oregonians as it can set up with the greatest amount of benefits. OED began rolling out the additional CARES Act benefits last week.
"With the first CARES Act payments on April 10, Oregon is among the early states getting an extra $600 per week to those out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic," OED said.
OED says that it's still working to hire more people to process claims, as well as "programming the unemployment benefits system" for a new category that will allow the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers to receive benefits.
The agency acknowledged that it relies on an antiquated computer system to process unemployment claims that has bogged down the process of getting in the sheer volume of new claims, particularly for an expanded pool of eligible applicants.
"The Employment Department will continue to examine opportunities to improve services to Oregonians, such as waiving the 'waiting week' for benefits," OED said. "As of now, waiving the waiting week requires thousands of hours of programming, and would delay processing record numbers of claims that are getting benefits to Oregonians who need them now."
Based on the detailed information from some of the claims filed last week, the majority of claims continue to come from laid-off workers in the restaurant and hotel industry. However, a shocking number of claims — at least 25,800 since March 15 — came from workers in the health care and social assistance field. Thousands more came from retail workers.