BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Facing staffing and funding challenges, the Oregon Employment Department is looking to make changes to House Bill 4035, which would increase the budget allocated to them by the Oregon Legislature.
After News Channel 21 had several viewers reach out saying they were having serious delays with getting their unemployment claims resolved, the Employment Department said while the vast majority of claims are handled timely, the unemployment insurance program has "historically been underfunded."
While claims and workload has increased, staffing has not. This leads to overburdened staff and possible impacts to customer service, according to the department.
To get staffing up to the level they think is needed, the Employment Department is looking to increase the diversion rate from the unemployment compensation trust fund from .09% to .109%. They believe the increased budget would allow them to hire more staff and reduce claim backlogs, while improving customer service.
At a House Committee meeting Tuesday, the Oregon Employment Department Director David Gerstendfel spoke at length about the needed changes, hoping to convince lawmakers to make the changes proposed for House Bill 4035.
The Employment Department has made strides in improving customer service, recently completing plans to move next month to a new online claim system for unemployment insurance benefits, called Frances Online. They think it will make processing claims easier for taxpayers, calling it "a great leap forward."