PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Employment Department is hiring new staff members in order to keep up with a record number of unemployment claims.
Like all federal and state agencies, Oregon’s employment office is treading unknown waters as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the country.
Officials at OED say they’re trying to process unemployment claims at a rate that is impossible to keep up with without hiring additional staff members. But the hiring process is also time-consuming. The state office said it plans to double the number of staff members in charge of processing claims by the end of the week.
In the meantime, officials are asking those who are trying to file for unemployment benefits to be patient.
“We do appreciate everyone’s patience as we try our best to get everybody trained quickly and available to take claims on the phone and online,” said Gail Krumenauer with the Oregon Employment Department.
On top of being inundated by unemployment claims, the department is also having to deal with state-issued guidelines on social distancing.
“We’re modifying our workspaces to make sure we’re keeping them safe and healthy,” said Krumenauer.
Just a week ago, KOIN 6 News learned unemployment claims in Oregon jumped from less than 1,000 to nearly 19,000 within two days. The spike started the day after Governor Kate Brown ordered all restaurants to stop serving dine-in customers.
OED officials said Tuesday they can’t release the latest claim numbers until later in the week; however, they did reveal that calls and online claims increased dramatically after Brown issued the “Stay at home” order.