PORTLAND, Ore. — If you are still waiting to hear from the Oregon Employment Department about your unemployment benefits, you're not alone. The department says it currently has a backlog of 38,000 claims due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Oregon is facing unprecedented unemployment and hundreds of thousands of Oregon families are counting on unemployment benefits to pay for their basic needs," said Oregon Employment Department director Kay Erickson in a statement released on Tuesday. "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. 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."
So, the department is now launching a new strategy to get all of those claims processed as quickly as possible. It's called Project Focus 100, and its goal is to process 100% of the 38,000-claim backlog as quickly as possible and get Oregonians the relief they need.
The project includes four main strategies:
- Continue surge hiring of employment department staff.
- Further focus experienced professionals on the oldest and most complex claims. This includes increasing outbound calls from May 29 through June 12.
- Increase proactive contact and communication, including pre-recorded phone messages, emails, and a customer chat bot on the department's website.
- Use technology to close gaps and improve service.
Erickson is set to present remotely to the Oregon House Interim Committee On Business and Labor about the department's COVID-19 pandemic response at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
"We continue to add new metrics to our online dashboard so that Oregonians can watch our progress," said Erickson. "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."