Oregon receives federal funding of $4.5 million to provide equal access to unemployment insurance benefits.

The funds will repair gaps in unemployment insurance access (UI). The Oregon Employment Department (OED) will utilize the money to reach out directly to underprivileged areas and collect data to determine which communities require further assistance.

“This award will enable us to reach those who need our services but have been unable to obtain them,” stated OED Acting Director David Gerstenfeld.

“It enables us to connect with partners who have a thorough grasp of Oregon’s distinct communities, receive critical knowledge about serving these communities effectively, and collect data demonstrating where hurdles exist and how to overcome them.”

The award will allow the organization to expand on the work it began during the epidemic, Gerstenfeld explained.

During the jobless claim boom, OED listened to the needs of Oregon’s marginalized areas and implemented solutions that increased access to critical services.

He added that this includes collaborating with community-based organizations to assist individuals in filing claims and increasing the quantity of information available in languages other than English, including on the OED website.

OED intends to use the money to establish a new business unit named Equitable Access to Unemployment Insurance (EAUI). The unit will develop new materials in other languages and formats, conduct outreach to underprivileged areas, and give one-on-one counseling to those who encounter hurdles while attempting to use the UI system.

The new program, which is aligned with the State of Oregon’s Action Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, will target Native Americans, Latinx, Blacks, Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, immigrants, people who require assistance in languages other than English, persons with disabilities, and those who are considered poor.

Additionally, OED will use government money to evaluate data and identify disadvantaged populations that can benefit from future outreach activities.

Oregon is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Department of Labor.

“These are the first awards of their type to improve fairness in state unemployment insurance systems,” stated US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “For our unemployment insurance system to become a more powerful safety net and economic stabilizer, it must serve all employees fairly and equitably.”

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Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon stated that millions of Americans have relied on unemployment assistance to make ends meet throughout the pandemic.

However, obtaining those advantages for far too many Oregonians has been difficult. Wyden expressed gratitude to the federal government for assisting Oregon in its ongoing efforts to offer equitable assistance.

“While the Oregon Employment Department keeps working diligently to get benefits out the door as swiftly as possible, I’m pleased to see federal funds assisting the state in confronting equality challenges square on,” Wyden said.