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As coronavirus-related unemployment claims rise, frustrations grow

While employment departments struggle to manage an onslaught of claims, filers find frustrations navigating the overloaded systems.

PORTLAND, Oregon — The Oregon Employment Department will release new unemployment numbers on Thursday, but we already know the claims are skyrocketing.  And the system is overloaded with those filing claims and looking for assistance to do it. 

In Oregon some WorkSource offices are closed, while others are operating on a limited basis. Starting Tuesday, only limited in-person appointments will be made, according to a spokesperson. 

The employment department says it has been able to improve its website so online filing is going better than it did last week, when problems arose. Still, trying to call in with questions or other business is a difficult process.

Kristen Sanders is a physical trainer who was laid off from her job. She was concerned that she needed to fix something on her claim but couldn’t.

“Now I can’t get it amended online; it says to call. You call and of course it is Monday and it’s the start of all this but you cannot get through," Sanders said. "I’ve been trying for four hours and so has my coworker and we can’t get through to talk to anybody.” 

PORTLAND, Ore. - More than 155,000 Oregonians work in restaurants and bars and many lost their jobs Monday when they were forced to close. For small businesses in that category, this shutdown could mean they are closed for good. There is help out there for laid off workers and small business owners, but getting it has not been easy.

Oregon Employment Department spokesperson Gail Krumenauer said they empathize with all who have been laid off, and they are ding everything they can, including adding more call takers, to help with the layoff overload.

“We are experiencing a tremendously high volume and need and we are working hard to address everyone’s needs. And everyone’s individual benefits situation is different and we are trying to reach out to everyone in the most timely manner that we can,” said Krumenauer.

Washington state's Employment Security Department is also seeing extremely high numbers of claims, as the pandemic knocks out businesses.  The most extreme example: Unemployment claims from the food and hospitality sector rose 597 percent March 8-14, from the previous week.

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