‘Busy signals’: Oregonians struggle to file for unemployment

Coronavirus

The Oregon Employment Department is seeing a record number of new claims

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Unemployment numbers are skyrocketing across the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic but many Oregonians are hitting snags in their attempts to file for benefits—and frustrations are boiling over. 

Issues range from long wait times on phone calls to the Oregon Employment Division and problems with online applications. 

A record number of people claiming unemployment insurance has bogged down the filing system and required OEM to hastily hire additional employees. Officials say they’re doing everything they can to keep up and have asked for the public’s patience. 

“We continue to receive a truly—not even close to numbers we’ve seen before, we’ve never seen anything like it—unprecedented record level of unemployment insurance initial claims in Oregon,” said Gail Krumenauer with OEM. 

Busy signals

Wednesday marked the 17th day since Jesse Snavlin filed for unemployment benefits. She filed the same day she lost her job as a bartender at a Portland restaurant. 

But she still hasn’t seen any money from the state. 

“Every time I logged in, it would say ‘you’re having a problem, you’re having a problem’ and I would receive letters in the mail for information requests for the next day because they would take so long to get to me,” Snavlin told KOIN 6 News. 

She said she spent a grand total of 15 hours trying to get ahold of someone at OEM. 

Snavlin isn’t alone. Another Oregonian who is out of work, Dennis Cote, said he called the unemployment department 750 times in one day and never spoke to a single person. 

“Each time, I got a busy signal or ‘this number is no longer in service,’” he said. 

Cote recently lost his job at Portland International Airport. He’s a disabled veteran and receives a monthly income but is worried for those who don’t. 

“There’s a sense of hopelessness from a lot of people about how they’re going to pay their bills,” Cote said. “They’re worried, they’re scared about their economic well-being and I absolutely understand.” 

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Job openings for those out of work due to COVID-19 response

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