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Gov. Brown fires Employment Dept. director over massive claims backlog

Oregon Employment Department
Oregon Employment Dept.

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Gov. Kate Brown said Sunday she has fired the director of the Oregon Employment Department, which has been under fire in recent months due to its inability to clear a massive backlog of COVID-19-related unemployment benefit claims.

Here's the governor's full statement:

Governor Kate Brown Replaces Director of Oregon Employment Department

David Gerstenfeld will lead Department to clear backlog of unemployment insurance claims  

(Salem, OR) -- Governor Kate Brown announced today that she asked for and has received the resignation of Oregon Employment Department Director Kay Erickson. Effective immediately, David Gerstenfeld, Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Division Director, will serve as interim Director of the Department.

“In the middle of this pandemic, the continued delays from the Oregon Employment Department in delivering unemployment insurance benefits to thousands of out-of-work Oregonians are unacceptable,” said Governor Brown. “This is an unprecedented crisis, and the problems at the department demand an urgent response. I’d like to thank Director Erickson for her years of service to the State of Oregon, but it is clear that new leadership is needed.”

“I have directed the Oregon Employment Department to address the current backlog in unpaid claims, and to clearly communicate the status of any unpaid claims to Oregonians,” said Governor Brown. “In these incredibly stressful times, Oregon families are counting on these benefits. We will make this right. Oregonians will receive the benefits that they are owed.”

Gerstenfeld has served as the Paid Family and Medical Leave Division Director in the Department since September of 2019. Prior to that, he had served as Unemployment Insurance Division Director since 2011. He has worked for the State of Oregon since 1997, and received a law degree from Lewis and Clark.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had called on Saturday for Erickson's resignation, noting that some 200,000 Oregonians were still waiting for benefits, amid inability to get through to the agency for answers.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had called on Saturday for Erickson's resignation, noting recent estimates that some 200,000 Oregonians were still waiting for benefits, amid an inability by so many to get through to the agency for answers.

"Simply put, this litany of incompetence and unresponsiveness has hit the breaking point," Wyden said.

Wyden said in two tweets Sunday that the announcement of new leadership "provides a much-needed opportunity to get countless unemployed Oregonians the urgent help they are counting on during this economic and public health crisis.

"Now it's critical to take every step possible toward quickly ensuring all Oregonians thrown out of work through no fault of their own get the unemployment benefits they need to weather this storm," he said.

KTVZ news sources



  1. All you President Trump haters that reside here all day long- have more crow to eat !

    How is it the US President is organized enough to dole out millions in federal assistance to the states-manage their emergency equipment supplies- and get every eligible American a stimulus check within weeks… yet Democrat Governor Kate Brown has sat back and watched the state’s employment division fall flat on it’s democrat run face- failing to process a few thousand unemployment checks ???

    Democrats have run the state of Oregon into the out house- and it’s all come home to roost for all you out there that voted for these buffoons… I couldn’t care less if you get your money or not ! This country boy can survive !

    1. You make it sound as through Trump put in a lot of effort to make things happen. He didn’t lift a damn finger. He’s worthless. He only wants to look good and simply threatens to fire anyone who disagrees with him. What’s different here? Someone screws up and gets fired. Looks like a page right out of Trump’s playbook, to me.

    2. I’m not a fan of Kate, but it you look east, you will find a similar problem in Idaho (with the opposite party in the majority, if that matters). The US can print money it doesn’t have, but the states have to balance their budgets. They don’t have the luxury of being extremely overstaffed the majority of the time so that they can handle emergencies that rarely occur. It’s hard on those waiting for benefits, but a focus on how to get caught up with the rush will resolve the issue a lot sooner than just looking around for who to blame. Throwing bricks is the easy part.

  2. She fired the broad because she was under pressure from We The People CONSTANTLY and from United States Senators. Otherwise, these charades would be never ending

      1. Actually it has been tried once, the problem is was two groups with too big an ego to work together – most likely would have been more successful if they had worked together.

    1. It is possible via the ballot box/mail in ballot. If anyone complains about her leadership, they should compel themselves to vote in the next election. I believe that having a super majority is a bad thing as there is no balance, and consequently do vote, but don’t complain much about her.

    1. Make no mistake, Kate Brown has her eye on running for a national office in the future. Perhaps she even sees herself as a US Senator from Oregon someday.

      Of course she’s going to jump when Wyden says. Just like she sucks up to Michael “Daddy Warbucks” Bloomberg.

  3. She is a scapegoat for the lack of funds to pay all the claims, for the lack of a properly working system, for the lack of qualified people, and to cover Kates failing to lead properly.

  4. Oregon Employment Department Director Kay Erickson was a scapegoat. The backlog is most undoubtedly due to the antiquated computer system. The Federal Government gave $83,000,000 to Oregon to update that system years ago and it has been recently discovered through an audit of Oregon’s books that that same $83,000,000 has gone unspent. This issue does not fall at the feet of Kay Erickson. It falls at the feet of Kate Brown herself. Yet Kay Erickson is the one who loses her job. Kate Brown needs to resign her position for this. She has known about this issue and was warned that the existing computers system wouldn’t be able to handle an influx of applicants. That the existing system would likely crash in a situation suck as this.

    Kate Brown I am asking for your resignation!

    1. So trump can blame and fire everyone below him and nothing’s his fault, but everything’s Kate’s fault? do you know how stupid you sound?

    1. The issue is clear, antiquated system could not handle the onslaught of claims, many of which were complex. We’ve had several state Employment Dept. statements about that. As for the money that was supposed to go to modernizing that hasn’t happened, I’m sure we’ll hear more about that… and time will tell.

  5. An employee is only as good as their leader. In this case the firing should start with Queen Kate, then her court.
    There is no doubt this person was just following orders, and will be handsomely rewarded for the rest of their life. PERS anyone.
    Fired, an early retirement is the truth.

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