Unemployment numbers are skyrocketing across the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic but many Oregonians are hitting snags in their attempts to file for benefits — and frustrations are boiling over.
Issues range from long wait times on phone calls to the Oregon Employment Department and problems with online applications.
A record number of people claiming unemployment insurance has bogged down the filing system and required OEM to hastily hire additional employees. Officials say they're doing everything they can to keep up and have asked for the public's patience.
"We continue to receive a truly — not even close to numbers we've seen before, we've never seen anything like it — unprecedented record level of unemployment insurance initial claims in Oregon," said Gail Krumenauer with the employment department.
Wednesday marked the 17th day since Jesse Snavlin filed for unemployment benefits. She filed the same day she lost her job as a bartender at a Portland restaurant. But she still hasn't seen any money from the state.
"Every time I logged in, it would say 'you're having a problem, you're having a problem' and I would receive letters in the mail for information requests for the next day because they would take so long to get to me," Snavlin told KOIN 6 News.
She spent 15 hours trying to get in touch with someone at Oregon Employment Department.
Snavlin isn't alone. Another Oregonian who is out of work, Dennis Cote, said he called the unemployment department 750 times in one day and never spoke to a single person. "Each time, I got a busy signal or 'this number is no longer in service,'" he said.
Cote recently lost his job at Portland International Airport. He's a disabled veteran and receives a monthly income but is worried for those who don't. "There's a sense of hopelessness from a lot of people about how they're going to pay their bills," Cote said. "They're worried, they're scared about their economic well-being and I absolutely understand."
KOIN 6 News is a Portland Tribune news partner.
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