PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Financial relief could still be weeks away for tens of thousands of Oregonians waiting for unemployment benefits.

The Oregon Employment Department had just over 61,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims left to process by Wednesday. Employment officials are now hoping to finish processing the backlog by August 8 and say those waiting for PUA benefits shouldn’t expect any money until at least that time.

“In short, everything is still incredibly challenging,” said OED Acting Director David Gerstenfeld. “It’s taking a lot of time to work through the PUA applications; call volumes are incredibly high and we don’t expect them to decrease any time soon.”

The coronavirus is also affecting the OED on a personal level: Gerstenfeld said since the beginning of April, seven employees have tested positive for COVID-19, including five in the past week in four different locations.

Gerstenfeld said people don’t need to call the employment department if they were getting befefits and they suddenly stopped. Weekly claims must be manually processed. Gerstenfeld said an interruption is normal and they’re working on it.

“We’re trying to encourage people that don’t have to call in to do their best to be patient,” he said. “We know how trying it is but to let people that just can’t receive any benefits or any additional benefits without calling to be able to get through to us.”

So when should a person call the department?

Officials say you should call if it’s been more than four weeks since you filed your regular unemployment claim and haven’t received a check or heard from the OED. Also give them a call if you can’t file your claim online, if you get a notification there’s an issue with your claim, if you receive a letter asking for more information, or to confirm of accept a combined wage claim workup that includes wages from other states.