PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Employment Department still has thousands of unemployment claims to process before its self-imposed deadline on Friday.

David Gerstenfeld, the acting director of the OED, said Tuesday the department had processed 79% of the initial backlog of 38,000 regular unemployment claims. That left 8,100 unprocessed claims by Monday.

But even though the OED has made large strides in whiddling down the backlog of claims, many people are still struggling to get through to an OED employee when they call. Those who do get through often end up waiting on hold for upwards of two hours.

The OED recently added 100 additional incoming phone lines in an effort to resolve the ongoing issues with wait times. The average call wait time last Thursday was 54 minutes and 113 minutes on Friday.

“We’re really working to reduce the wait times to make it easier for people to call in,” said Gerstenfeld. “So although it’s more difficult than we would like we’re making progress on that and it is significantly better now than it was a couple weeks ago.”

The OED is also increasing the number of outgoing calls to people still waiting for benefits. This week, the department added 150 volunteers. Members of the National Guard are also helping call people to let them know the status of their claim.

Oregon Employment Department online dashboard

Gerstenfeld said they know there are people still waiting who fall outside the initial backlog of claims. Officials plan to continue with the additional efforts until everyone receives their benefits, including those who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

OED officials said people who are still waiting to receive their benefits should continue calling, filing their weekly claims and checking their claim status because those who have been waiting the longest have priority.

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