On Friday, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden called for the director of Oregon’s Employment Department to resign. The call comes the same week the department acknowledged a staggering backlog of 38,000 claims.
Earlier in the week, the beleaguered agency’s director Kay Erickson announced a plan she called Project Focus 100. Erickson said in a statement at the time that the goal of the new program is “to process 100 percent of the 38,000 claim backlog as quickly as possible and get Oregonians the relief they need.”
The problem seems to be there is no deadline for all the applications to be processed, and social media continues to be replete with examples of Oregonians unable to find personnel to communicate with at the department.
Erickson defended the department, noting it has paid a record number of claims within the last several weeks – but she also acknowledged that too many residents still have their claims unresolved.
Wyden is skeptical, and has now released a statement about why he believes Erickson should resign.
“Oregonians thrown out of work through no fault of their own deserve a state Employment Department capable of responding quickly and competently to their urgent needs during this economic and public health crisis.
Over the past weeks and months, it has become painfully clear that the Oregon Employment Department leadership has totally failed to meet these Oregonians’ needs or to support its own dedicated employees working to process claims.
While all states have faced challenges in implementing expanded benefits, Oregon’s problems have persisted far too long with far too much pain inflicted on unemployed Oregonians. The Oregon Employment Department’s mounting list of problems hit a new low this week with revelations that an estimated 200,000 Oregonians are still waiting for benefits and that leadership cannot say with confidence how much is owed to Oregonians aching for funds to buy groceries, pay the rent and more.
Adding insult to injury, too many unemployed Oregonians remain unable even to get through to the state Employment Department for answers to their most basic questions. The department’s persistent lack of transparency and apparent unwillingness to communicate with Oregonians in real time has added to Oregonians’ understandable confusion and frustration.
Simply put, this litany of incompetence and unresponsiveness has hit the breaking point. As a United States senator working to get federal unemployment benefits to Oregonians, this state situation must get fixed immediately and I am calling for the resignation of the Employment Department Director as an essential step to begin that long-overdue fix on behalf of unemployed Oregonians throughout our state.”