State Employees Volunteer to Clear Unemployment Backlog


Volunteers in the Employment Department step up to help Oregonians receive the benefits they deserve.

SALEM – Before the coronavirus outbreak, Oregon’s jobless rate was at an all-time low of 3.3%. In a matter of weeks, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that jumped to a record-high 14%. The result is 473,000 claims received to date—double the number that came in throughout the entire 2008 recession.

So far, the Oregon Employment Department increased staff by 600% and has processed 95% of initial unemployment claims, paying out $1.5 billion to Oregonians. But as anyone knows who has been waiting for weeks on their claims to go through or facing hours on hold, the department needs to get to 100% as quickly as possible.

Cue volunteers – 154 of them – stepping in from all across Oregon state government, including staff from the Governor’s office, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon Department of Revenue, legislative offices, Oregon State Treasury, and the Secretary of State’s office. These employees will be finding time within their existing schedules and workloads and, starting this week, will begin making outbound calls to Oregonians who are waiting to hear more about their employment claims.

The idea of increasing the workforce immediately with volunteers came about because Governor Kate Brown wants to make sure the Employment Department is doing everything possible to communicate with Oregonians waiting on their benefits.

“This will not only mean a lot to Oregonians and their families, but to all of us who are working so hard together to help Oregonians during this time,” said Governor Brown. “We do our best work when we do it together, and each of you is demonstrating the very best of who we are as public servants.”

The 154 volunteers will be calling Oregonians to, at the minimum, explain where their claims are in the system. Volunteers will also be paired with a lead employee from the Employment Department, who will train them and be available if urgent issues arise as the volunteers are making calls.

Each volunteer will be working an average of three hours a day, in addition to managing their day jobs in state government, and are committed to volunteering for at least the next few weeks.

“I am committed to ensuring that all eligible Oregonians receive the maximum benefits available to them,” said Governor Brown.

About Author

Sarah Wexler is the Director of Strategic Communications in the Office of Governor Kate Brown

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