As of Sunday, May 31, Oregon Employment Department Director Kay Erickson has resigned from her position, as requested by Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Ron Wyden, and multiple other state legislators.
The resignation occurs after months of Oregon’s Employment Office failing to efficiently provide information and unemployment benefits to desperate citizens during the COVID-19 crisis, in large part due to their old computer and logistic systems. Since March 15, a total of 445,000 Oregonians have applied for traditional unemployment benefits. As of Friday, May 29, agency officials announced that only about 55% of these applicants have received benefits. Some have been waiting months to receive benefits from the state with no stable income.
On Saturday, May 30, state legislators took to a virtual hearing to ask Erickson about the Oregon Employment Office’s recent failures. Unsatisfied with her responses, Gov. Kate Brown called for her to resign, which Erickson accepted Sunday.
“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,” Brown asserted at the hearing. “This is an unprecedented crisis, and the problems at the department demand an urgent response.”
Sen. Ron Wyden was also outspoken about how necessary it was for Erickson to resign, and took to Twitter to say that 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.”
Erickson’s resignation is immediate, and David Gerstenfeld will be taking her place. Gerstenfeld has led the Employment Office’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance division since last year.
By Cara Nixon