PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — People laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are still struggling to received benefits from the Oregon Employment Department. One man said he has now gone two months without a paycheck.
The Employment Department said that they have processed hundreds of thousands of claims, but there are still just under 50,000 claims that have yet to be processed. And for the people who are still waiting, they said it’s a challenge to get through to anyone for help.
“It’s hard because I just don’t know what’s going on with my claim,” said AJ. “It would be one thing if I was getting some communication, and I mean, at this point, it is pretty much unacceptable to just continuously be told, ‘Well, we’re busy and we’ve got a lot going on, so we’re doing the best we can.'”
AJ, who did not want to be fully identified, was laid off on March 20 in the wake of the governor’s executive order that effectively shut down the state to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, he said he’s gone online every week to file a claim for unemployment benefits, as directed. At one point, AJ said he got a letter that said he would receive benefits, but has yet to get any money.
The last update AJ received was a letter that said there was a question about his availability for work. He said he has tried calling the office hundreds of times. He’s sent emails, faxes, and even a letter in the mail, but can’t get through to anyone for help.
“I just feel like I should be able to get some answers,” said AJ. “I should be able to talk to an actual human and just get some answers, or some sort of clarification — just letting me know the actual status of my claims.”
When KOIN 6 News reporter Lindsay Nadrich tried calling the Employment Department on Monday, she received a busy signal numerous times.
“I’m eight weeks in. I’m getting stressed about money at this point,” said AJ. “I was fortunate, I guess, that I had some money saved, but if it wasn’t for that, I would be in a serious situation right now. I’m getting close to being in that situation because savings only last so long.”
In past interviews with the Oregon Employment Department, officials have said they are experiencing a high volume of claims and are working as quickly as they can. The department has processed roughly 340,000 claims since March 15.
AJ said that answer just isn’t enough anymore.
KOIN 6 News reached out to employment officials on Monday for comment on this story, and was told they were too busy, but could do an interview tomorrow. KOIN 6 News will continue to follow up with them as long as people are still waiting to receive their benefits.