Oregon And Washington New Unemployment Claims Soar

During the week of April 5 to April11, the Oregon Employment Department received 53,800 initial claims for unemployment benefits. That’s in addition to a revised total of 243,000 initial claims filed during the prior three weeks.

The Oregon Employment Department continues to prioritize efforts that can get the most benefits to the greatest number of affected Oregonians the fastest. With the first CARES Act payments on April 10, Oregon is among the early states getting an extra $600 per week to those out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the week of March 29 to April 4, the Employment Department paid $23 million in benefits to Oregonians. During the week of April 5 to April 11, that more than quadrupled to $97 million in benefits paid. More benefits measures are on the agency’s COVID-19 page.

The Employment Department’s efforts continue with more hiring underway, and programming the unemployment benefits system for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Once ready, the PUA program will allow the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers not already eligible to receive unemployment benefits for the first time.

The responsiveness of existing agency employees transitioning from other program areas to take claims, efforts to rapidly hire new staff, and launching new programs has resulted in getting much-needed benefits to more Oregonians in difficult times. These results come despite the agency’s reliance on a dated mainframe system to process unemployment benefits. The Employment Department will continue to examine opportunities to improve services to Oregonians, such as waiving the “waiting week” for benefits. As of now, waiving the waiting week requires thousands of hours of programming, and would delay processing record numbers of claims that are getting benefits to Oregonians who need them now.

The Employment Department has detailed information for 47,700 of the initial claims processed during the week starting April 5. The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, continued to see the greatest number of initial claims for unemployment benefits (12,300). This reflects ongoing impacts of public health and safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 15, there have been about 52,900 initial claims filed in the leisure and hospitality sector. Health care and social assistance (25,800) and retail trade (19,700) are other sectors with large totals of initial weekly claims in the past four weeks, but every sector has seen additional claims activity.

Multnomah (10,200), Washington (6,000), and Lane (4,600) also continued to be the counties with the largest number of claims.

Washington State Unemployment Claims

During the week of April 5-11, there were 143,241 initial and 585,983 total claims for unemployment benefits, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). While initial claims declined 16% from the previous week, it was still the third highest weekly number on record and five times more claims than the peak week during the Great Recession. Total weekly claims are now the highest on record.

During the week of April 5-11, ESD also paid out $125.9 million to 265,798 unemployed workers, a $45.6 million increase from the previous week. Since the start of COVID-19 job losses the week ending March 7th, the department has paid out nearly $272 million in benefits to Washingtonians.

“This past week, we provided more unemployment benefits in a single week than any other week in the history of Washington state’s program. More than a quarter of a million of our friends and neighbors received a total of $125 million last week alone. And, since the crisis began, the total has now topped a quarter billion dollars. But we know that many more are awaiting that same relief.” said Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “We are taking many steps to help get people their benefits. Among those steps is the rollout of the new federal CARES act provisions that dramatically expand eligibility for unemployment assistance, increase the weekly benefit amount by $600, and extend the time available for unemployment assistance by 13 weeks. This Saturday, April 18, the ESD system will be updated to enable that expansion so that individuals such as self-employed workers, independent contractors and other workers who are not traditionally eligible will now be able to apply for unemployment benefits. As a result, we expect to see an even larger surge of claims in the coming weeks. People should also know that they will be paid retroactive to their date of eligibility.”

Source: Oregon and Washington Employment

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