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Gov. Brown: 'Working' To Waive 'Waiting Week' For Out-Of-Work Oregonians

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks at a press conference to address the coronavirus pandemic in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 20, 2020.
Bradley W. Parks
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks at a press conference to address the coronavirus pandemic in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 20, 2020.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has responded to pressure from the state’s Congressional delegation to end what’s known as “waiting week” for unemployed Oregonians - the customary lag time between when jobless workers file for unemployment benefits and when they start to receive checks.  

Brown told members of the state’s Congressional delegation that she is “working with the [employment] department on waiving the ‘waiting week.’” But Brown cautioned that it’s not a simple or quick change and will require “thousands of hours of programming to make this change.” 

That’s similar to what the state Employment Department has been saying since suddenly out-of-work Oregonians started noticing the delay. Many of the thousands of jobless Oregonians worry that the delays will cost them in state and federal assistance money - a concern recently validated by reporting by The Oregonian/Oregonlive

The effort to get rid of the delay comes at the same time the Employment Department is experiencing a record number of applications and the challenge of disbursing new emergency aid from the federal government. The newly unemployed have experienced a raft of problems in applying for benefits - from having applications denied to being unable to get a claim submitted to the department’s overloaded computer system. 

Brown told Congress members in her letter that the department is rapidly staffing up to deal with the unprecedented volume of claims. She said the Employment Department quadrupled its claims section staff from “100 employees to 400” with plans to double it again to 800.  

In her letter, Brown said that the state has been pursuing priorities other than “waiting week” in the last few weeks. She said the “first priority” has been to distribute $600 federal payments for people who’ve lost their jobs, as authorized by the recently-passed CARES Act. Second, Brown said the department has been focused on implementing a policy change in that three-week-old federal legislation: providing “benefits to self-employed Oregonians and ‘gig economy’ workers.” 

Brown said she is “committed to ensuring that all eligible Oregonians receive the maximum benefits available to them.”

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Rob Manning is a news editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting, with oversight of reporters covering education, healthcare and business. Rob became an editor in 2019, following about 15 years covering schools and universities in Oregon and southwest Washington as OPB’s education reporter.