MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — Until this week, Breanna Marshall was a hair stylist who worked at the Oak Grove location of Great Clips. The married mother is also going to school to become a medical assistant.

Now, she — like more than 76,000 other Oregonians — is freshly out of work and trying hard to file for unemployment.

“It was me and the assistant manager that was left” after the pandemic began. “Everybody else felt uncomfortable to work, so it was just us. Then we found out it was officially shut down,” she said. “They just told us to consider yourself laid off so you can get unemployment.”

Marshall said she now spends her days trying to file.

“I have been calling since last Friday, so it’s been a week now. And I have called, I can’t even count anymore, just over and over. I mean, probably 300 or 400 times. And I just can’t get through.”

Her mom called. Her friend called. They’re all experiencing the same things, she said.

“I dial the number and it’s just like a busy beep-beep-beep and then it just keeps beeping. That’s all there is every single time.”

Marshall is upset. “I feel like they’re not fixing it, you know? How are the people who can’t get online and make their claim supposed to do it? Because the only option is online or by phone. It’s just, it’s stressful.”

She tried to file online but got a message she wasn’t able to file that way, “that I need to file by calling.”

Job openings for those out of work due to COVID-19 response
How to file for unemployment during a pandemic

Record number of claims in ‘incredibly abrupt time’

Gail Krumenauer, the communications director for the State of Oregon Employment Department, told KOIN 6 News they are sympathetic to everyone’s needs in these unprecedented times.

“We know that right now the most successful way for everyone to be able to file is, if it’s at all possible, to file online,” Krumenauer said, “so it leaves the phone lines open for those who are trying to file and actually have to complete their claim by phone.”

Record claims for unemployment benefits in Oregon
Oregon, Washington unemployment skyrockets in pandemic

The agency has already doubled the staff dedicated to taking claims and working to increase the phone capacity “in a way that maintains the privacy of people’s confidential information,” she said.

People, like Breanna Marshall, who have to file by phone and haven’t been able to get through won’t be penalized or lose out on any benefits you’re entitled to, the Oregon Employment Department said.

Krumenauer also said the agency is expanding their technology capacity.

“It’s a record level of initial claims for unemployment insurance in an incredibly abrupt short period of time,” she said. “We haven’t seen anything like it before.”

The OED received more than 76,500 initial claims for Unemployment Insurance benefits during the week of March 15. This is a huge increase from just two weeks ago — when 4,900 unemployment claims were made during the week of March 8.

Their goal is for everybody who needs unemployment benefits to get them as soon as possible.

“We’re working on it. We’re actively working on it,” Krumenauer said. “We’re doing all the things we can as quickly as we can.”

‘Worried about how we’re going to survive’

Breanna Marshall said her husband is still working, so they do have some income. “But my income was helping with groceries, gas, all that extra stuff.”

Breanna Marshall, seen with her 4-year-old daughter, lost her job during the coronavirus pandemic, March 27, 2020 (KOIN)

She said she’s able to do some online schooling and is keeping busy. “I have my daughter, and she’s a joy to be around. I’m just trying to spend time with her, spend time with my husband and try and stay positive.”

But it’s not easy.

“Just being scared, you know, worried about how we’re going to survive. We’re living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “It’s just really hard right now. We’re all really sad, depressed, staying inside.”