Oregon Employment Dept: System is decades old but sturdy

Coronavirus

Gig workers should be able to file soon

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Employment Department acknowledges the issues in processing claims for thousands of Oregonians.

“We’re trying our best to improve to make it better for everybody,” Gail Krumenauer, Communications Director of Oregon Employment Department, told KOIN 6 News.

She said the system is working properly and processing a record number of claims. She said filing online is the fastest route for workers, because robocalls and other issues have caused call lines to get jammed.

“The more people that we can get successfully filing online and continuing to file online, gives us the opportunity to have more phone lines open for people who don’t have internet access or have some things specific to their claim,” she said.

They have expanded their Contact Center hours and are doing call backs for people who are having difficulty reaching them during the day.

“Still, we know that just this absolutely record-shattering level of need is still short of what people are looking for in terms of connecting to a person.”

Krumeanaur said it’s difficult to ballpark how many Oregonians still need to file for unemployment, especially with the upcoming CARES Act inclusion of gig workers and those who are self-employed.

She expects another large spike in demand once that program is up and running. It’s a heavy load of work because they don’t have the typical payroll information in the system already like they do with normal unemployment filings.

“We know how badly they need benefits as well. And so we are working very actively right now,” she said. “We are hoping to get that launched just as soon as we can.”

Workers can be ready to file by collecting documents that prove income. They will get retroactive benefits for all the weeks they were eligible when the system wasn’t running yet.

As to whether or not the issue are because Oregon’s system is antiquated, she said the system was older but built to be sturdy.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

“We do have an older main frame system. It is decades old and it’s is built to be sturdy. It is built to be reliable. And as I mentioned before, it is successfully processing the majority of the large majority of our claims. It wasn’t designed to have layers upon layers of changes put on it, which is exactly what we’re doing right now with starting up new programs, implementing additional payments under the CARES Act and things like that,” she said.

The older system paired with the record-level of traffic is what is causing problems.

She said they’ve been working to modernize the system since 2017.

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