PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Legislators held a hearing Tuesday morning to hold the Oregon Employment Department accountable for delays in getting residents benefits, of which tens of thousands of Oregonians are still waiting.
Acting Director David Gerstenfeld testified before the Senate Committee on Labor and Business to share what has worked and what has not, marking the first of several days of testimony.
Senators questioned Gerstenfeld on why they didn’t modernize the system even though the department received more than $85 million to do just that in 2009, and pointed out audits in 2003, 2012 and 2015 that showed the need for upgrades that were not done.
“There’s no accountability there. There’s just absolutely no accountability and that’s one of the frustration points for all of us on this committee that when we try to help these people get their claims, No. 1, that’s a problem, and No. 2, explaining to them what happened it is almost an indefensible explanation,” Sen. Mark Hass (D-District 14) said.
Gerstenfeld said multiple changes in leadership impacted the department’s ability to upgrade the system. OED is currently working on implementing the additional $300 benefit.
Once that’s completed, they’ll work on waiving the waiting week, followed by implementing Senate Bill 1701, which allows people to make more each week and still qualify for benefits. However, Gerstenfeld said that will not be in place until December.
Oregonians who wish to weigh in can through the Oregon Legislature’s public testimony portal.