Oregon’s unemployment backlog clearing — slowly

Coronavirus

19,000 people still waiting on PUA claims

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nearly 70% of the backlog of applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the Oregon Employment Department has been processed. But in real-life numbers, that means there are still about 19,000 people stuck, with the goal of getting the backlog cleared by August 8.

When OED launched the Focus PUA Initiative, there were about 70,000 unprocessed claims. Now, most of them have been processed and about 37,000 people have gotten PUA checks, Acting Director David Gerstenfeld said.

“Last week we processed 21,000 PUA applications,” he said. “That’s more than 5 times the rate that we were processing them when we began the Focus PUA project.”

But getting the claim processed is just the beginning. There are tens of thousands of people stuck in the adjudication process — which can take as long as 14 weeks to get through.

Gerstenfeld said they’re hiring more people to help speed that process.

Last week, the US Department of Labor said people getting PUA benefits could start reporting net earnings instead of gross earnings, which means they can deduct expenses. But the OED is still working on guidelines for that and how people can get retroactive payments.

The OED is hosting a webinar at 1 p.m. Thursday for people who are still waiting to hear from the agency.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this unemployment issue.

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