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Oregon to start replacing 1990s unemployment benefits system

Oregon Employment Dept.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Employment Department says in July it will start upgrading the obsolete computer system that pays jobless benefits.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that would end a 12-year delay that caused a catastrophic breakdown in distributing aid during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oregon’s new system won’t be in place until 2024. Oregon was among the slowest in the nation at paying jobless benefits during the pandemic, with laid-off workers frequently waiting weeks or months for aid.

News release from the Oregon Employment Dept.:

Contract work for Employment Department's modernization project set to begin

Department of Administrative Services Executes Contract with FAST Enterprises

May 19, 2021 (Salem, OR)-- The Oregon Employment Department announces the conclusion of its negotiations with FAST Enterprises, and a resultant contract for FAST’s services in the Department’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Modernization Project.  On May 13, 2021, the Department of Administrative Services (DAS); with recommended approvals from Employment, the Department of Justice, and DAS Enterprise Information Services, finalized the contract and issued a notice to FAST to proceed with the work described and scheduled therein. 

“We are excited to reach this important milestone in our effort to simplify and streamline the unemployment insurance process and lay the groundwork for our Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) program for Oregonians. Underpinning this work is our goal to enhance the customer experience by providing improved services such as online self-service, automation, access to data, and integration with partner agencies. We will now focus on ensuring progress made on the modernization process does not impact our ability to pay unemployment insurance benefits,” said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department.

The Modernization Program is an agency-wide initiative to transform how the department does business and update its core technology systems. Under the Modernization Project, the department will make updates to how UI services are delivered to employees and employers and will implement technology solutions for collecting contributions for the new PFMLI program. 

The project has successfully fulfilled the requirements outlined by the State’s oversight process and received Stage Gate 3 endorsement from the State’s Enterprise Information Services. This means the department can officially start transforming its unemployment insurance system and preparing to implement the new PFMLI program. 

The Modernization team has started working with FAST Enterprises staff to prepare for the project, which will officially start in July 2021. The project will be separated into in two phases, focusing first on UI tax and PFMLI contributions, which is expected to be in place early fall 2022 with ongoing improvements continuing. The next phase will address technology and processes that support the payment of UI benefits and is expected to begin paying benefits early 2024.

For more information about the department’s Modernization Project, visit

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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