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Director Of Oregon Employment Department Resigns

Salem, Ore. – Covid-19 impacts are causing big changes at the Oregon Employment Department. The head of the Oregon Employment Department has resigned. Director Kay Erickson was asked to step down by Governor Kate Brown. Effectively immediately David Gerstenfeld will serve as interim director. He is the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Division Director. In a statement Governor Brown says the delays in delivering benefits to thousands of Oregonians is unacceptable. She added this unprecedented crisis demands an urgent response. Brown thanked Erickson for her years of service to the state but said new leadership was needed.

Read more from Governor Kate Brown:

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown announced today that she asked for and has received the resignation of Oregon Employment Department Director Kay Erickson. Effective immediately, David Gerstenfeld, Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Division Director, will serve as interim Director of the Department.

“In the middle of this pandemic, the continued delays from the Oregon Employment Department in delivering unemployment insurance benefits to thousands of out-of-work Oregonians are unacceptable,” said Governor Brown. “This is an unprecedented crisis, and the problems at the department demand an urgent response. I’d like to thank Director Erickson for her years of service to the State of Oregon, but it is clear that new leadership is needed.”

“I have directed the Oregon Employment Department to address the current backlog in unpaid claims, and to clearly communicate the status of any unpaid claims to Oregonians,” said Governor Brown. “In these incredibly stressful times, Oregon families are counting on these benefits. We will make this right. Oregonians will receive the benefits that they are owed.”

Gerstenfeld has served as the Paid Family and Medical Leave Division Director in the Department since September of 2019. Prior to that, he had served as Unemployment Insurance Division Director since 2011. He has worked for the State of Oregon since 1997, and received a law degree from Lewis and Clark.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said this on Twitter:

 

More from AP –

Governor Kate Brown has fired the head of the Oregon Employment Department after long delays in delivering benefits to people who have lost jobs during the coronavirus outbreak.

Brown said Sunday she had asked for and received the resignation of Kay Erickson, who had run the department since Brown appointed her to the post in 2016. Brown issued stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of COVID-19, and many businesses have been closed or operating at reduced capacity.

“In the middle of this pandemic, the continued delays from the Oregon Employment Department in delivering unemployment insurance benefits to thousands of out-of-work Oregonians are unacceptable,” Brown said in a statement.

OregonLive reports the employment department struggled through a series of leadership crises in the years before Erickson took over. She steered the department through a period of relative calm afterwards, as the state’s jobless rate fell to an all-time low of 3.3% and the agency had relatively few benefits claims.

When the pandemic hit, though, the employment department was quickly overwhelmed as more than 440,000 Oregonians filed for jobless benefits and the state’s unemployment rate spiked to an all-time high, 14.2%.

The department, using outdated equipment, was unable to keep up with the volume of claims or adapt its technology to accommodate changes in the jobless program. Although Oregon received $86 million federal funding for a computer upgrade in 2009, and successive audits warned the department was unprepared for a spike in jobless claims, work replacing the computers isn’t due to be complete until 2025.


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