A graph from the Oregon Employment Department, released May 19, illustrates job losses during previous recessions and how they compare to the current economic downturn. (Courtesy/Oregon Employment Department)

The Covid pandemic has left a record number of Oregonians without jobs and lots of questions as people have waited for extended periods to hear about the status of their unemployment claims. 

In response, the Oregon Employment Department has launched a new website, unemployment.oregon.gov, that’s intended to answer questions for people who’ve lost jobs. The website contains information about eligibility for unemployment insurance as well as how the program has been expanded during the pandemic. 

“Our goal with this new website is to provide clear information so people can file their claims, avoid unnecessary delays, and get their questions answered without having to call us,” said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department in a statement.“We know that ultimately Oregonians need their claims processed, but we also want to ease some of the communication frustrations people have experienced.” 

Oregon, like much of the country, has rapidly shed jobs as the pandemic hit. The state lost 252,800 jobs in April. While May saw some bounceback in jobs, Oregon’s unemployment rate stands at 14.2%. The Salem area’s unemployment rate for May stands at 12.7%, down from the revised rate of 13.1% in April. 

Between March 15 and July 4, Marion County has generated 29,638 initial unemployment claims. Polk County has produced 6,749 claims during that time.  

The department has received 505,300 unemployment claims statewide between March 15 and July 4, according to its website. It’s made progress on clearing the backlog. Of those, 1,158 claims remain to be processed and $2.67 billion has been paid out.

Since the state launched its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, it’s received 98,500 claims. The program was created by Congress to extend relief to “gig” workers and others not covered by traditional unemployment insurance. So far, it’s processed 22,516.

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 Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.