Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians were left unemployed due to the government-mandated shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Oregon Employment Department had a (fully predictable, preventable) system crash during the pandemic. The Department was faulted by media for letting employee sit idle all day long, sometimes playing video games, due to mismanagement. Then It’s phone system failed.
Now comes scandal #4.
The bureaucratic failures of the Oregon Employment Department (OED) hindered Oregonians from getting the unemployment benefits they were told they would receive, and it has recently come to light that the OED cut corners that may end up costing businesses untold amounts in unemployment tax burdens. While in crisis mode to get the extremely delayed benefits to Oregonians, the OED altered the adjudication process, or the process that helped determine if an employee qualified for the unemployment benefits. Many employers were not contacted when employees filed for and received unemployment checks.
It is time for Gov. Kate Brown to use the $85.6 million the state was awarded by the federal government in 2009, specifically with the call to update the OED computer systems. In 2020, nearly all of those funds were sitting in a state trust fund.
Since 2009, the OED has been audited multiple times; in 2003, 2012 by then Secretary of State Kate Brown, now Gov. Brown, and 2015, and each time was given recommendations that the outdated computer programs be replaced.
Instead of using the over a decade of time to complete the technological upgrades, the inaction of Oregon’s bureaucracy to work for the benefit of Oregonians is a likely reason for the unemployment debacle Oregonians experience today.