Signs in windows and doorways throughout Salem are alerting residents to changing business hours and access limits as life adjusts to pandemic times. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Hoping to speed up the processing of claims for a new unemployment benefits program, the Oregon Employment Department has launched a new form intended to make it easier to apply. 

The department announced on Friday that it has partnered with Google to create a new online application form for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The program was created by Congress earlier this year to help self-employed people and other workers who aren’t normally eligible for unemployment benefits. 

The department, which has come under fire for delays in processing the record backlog of unemployment claims, expects that the new form will allow more than 100,000 people eligible for the program to get their weekly benefit payments faster. 

“When I took on this role, I made fixing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application issue a top priority because we knew it was impacting our ability to get claims processed quickly,” said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department, in a statement. 

He said that the PDF application the department previously used was cumbersome to fill out and prone to errors and that the new form will be more efficient. The new form automates the certification process and will ensure they are filled out completely. 

Those who have already submitted claims should resubmit with the new form if they have not already been paid out. Claims can be submitted to the department here. The department has also launched a new informational website on unemployment benefits

The department did not immediately respond to questions about the new arrangement with Google and how much it was paying the company. 

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