▶️ Frustration mounts for those seeking unemployment benefits

By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

These days, about the only thing “busy” in Oregon is the phone line to file unemployment claims.

“I called like 150 times, and each time it didn’t ring, it just said ‘User busy’,” Jocelyn Hollman said.

“At one point I tried somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 calls in one day and never got through!” Emily Cady said.

“I’ve had moments where I’m constantly, constantly trying the number over and over again and I’ll have over 200, 250 calls on my cell phone,” Chris Ossig said.

“A lot of times when you do get through you’re on hold for four or five hours,” Shawn Web said.

And there can be even more hurdles after some people manage to file online.

“Whenever I keep looking up the status it keeps telling me that there’s nothing, so I don’t know if it went through,” Hollman said. “I can’t go another month without getting any money, I’m not going to survive.”

Since the week of March 15th, Oregon has received more than 333,000 claims for unemployment benefits.

Regional Economist Damon Runberg encourages everyone who is able, to file online.

“At the end of your filing process, if you get a confirmation number save that number, copy it, that means that the employment department received your claim,” Runberg said. “It might be a few weeks before you get your payment.”

For those who have to contact the employment department by phone, Runberg suggests not making quite so many phone calls.

“When people are calling rapid-fire like that it bogs up the whole system,” Runberg said. “So maybe space out your calls every hour or something like that.”

Many of those calls, Runberg says, are coming from those who are unsure about their possible benefits.

The unemployment insurance system is being expanded to include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program which will help those who are self-employed, sole proprietors and gig workers.

They expect the application process to be open by April.

Even if you have to wait, Runberg says, the money is coming.

“The average processing time is about three weeks for people to get their first payment, so understand that if you haven’t gotten paid in the first week or two, nothing’s wrong it’s just taking a long time, and you’ll get back paid for it,” Runberg said.

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