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KGW Digital Q&A | Navigating unemployment during the COVID-19 crisis

KGW spoke with two employment experts, Worksystems' Roland Chlapowski and Jesse Aronson, to get answers to your unemployment questions.
Credit: Ellen Boynton, KGW
KGW Q&A: Navigating Unemployment

PORTLAND, Ore. — Nearly 300,000 Oregonians have filed for unemployment in the past four weeks, demonstrating the staggering toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on the economy.

Nationally, nearly 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks. Nearly one in seven Americans have lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic.

RELATED: Another 53,800 Oregonians file for unemployment benefits

The unprecedented number of jobless claims have stretched unemployment claims systems from state to state across the country. Accounts of unprocessed claims and fruitless attempts to access the claims system via telephone are far too common.

RELATED: Oregon’s antiquated computers could cost laid-off workers more than $100 million in benefits

KGW spoke with two employment experts, Roland Chlapowski and Jesse Aronson, to answer your unemployment questions. Both work for Worksystems, a nonprofit that supports the workforce in the city of Portland and in Multnomah and Washington counties.

Click here to watch live

During the COVID-19 crisis, Chlapowski and Aronson have been answering questions and guiding people through the unemployment claims filing process. They don't actually file claims but provide step-by-step assistance for people. You can access the Worksystems resource page here. See more resources at the bottom of this article.

Worksystems partners with the Oregon Employment Division but does not make decisions about individual filings.

Here are some of the questions that were covered during the live Q&A:

  • What's involved in the unemployment claims process?
  • How long does the process take?
  • How do I get a status update on my claim?
  • If I have to stay home and care for my kids and can't work, am I still eligible?
  • I submitted a claim but haven't heard back. What should I do?
  • How can I determine how much unemployment I'm eligible for?

Q: What is Worksystems doing to support people who are currently out of work due to the COVID crisis? 

We normally provide face-to-face services for people looking for work and training at WorkSource Centers and through community based organizations. Due to the COVID crisis and social distancing guidelines, we’ve had to shift to a remote services delivery model.

We have set up a workforce COVID response line in each county to support the public in accessing our system’s services such as connection to hiring employers, unemployment insurance support, TriMet Low Income Fare enrollment, and safety net services (housing, food, childcare).

The phone line has some staff supporting it currently but will be fully staffed starting on Monday.

We are also staffing a line to provide information and assistance to small businesses in Washington County. 

Q: What if people need help who do not speak English?

We have many staff who speak Spanish and other languages. We can also set up calls through an interpreting service for less common languages. 

Q: What if I just want to get back to work now?

There are many employers who are hiring now (grocery stores, manufacturers, drivers, healthcare, etc.)  We have a list that is updated daily of current recruitments the public can access.

— Jesse Aronson, Worksystems

Unemployment insurance resources

General resource links

Workforce COVID response lines

  • For services in Multnomah County: (503) 714-5989
  • For services in Washington County: (503) 766-5696
  • For small business assistance in Washington County: (971) 512-6787

RELATED: Oregon coronavirus updates April 16: 5.2 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

RELATED: Why is testing so important? If you get coronavirus and recover, can you get it again? Your COVID-19 questions answered

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