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Oregon prepares for hike in unemployment claims during statewide 'freeze'

The Oregon Employment Department is planning to increase its claims processing capacity with help from the National Guard.

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Employment Department (OED) announced Friday it's preparing for an increase in unemployment claims following Gov. Kate Brown's statewide "freeze" that will be in effect for two weeks or more to slow the spread of COVID-19.  

For most counties, the freeze will be from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2, during which time there will be added restrictions on social gatherings and other activities, and bars and restaurants will be limited to takeout only. For counties with high coronavirus activity, such as Multnomah, the freeze is expected to last four weeks or longer.

The announcement came following a surge in cases across Oregon, including nine straight days of the state's highest daily case numbers. 

In a statement Friday, OED said Oregonians whose employment is impacted by this effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 will need to either file an initial claim or restart a stopped claim. 

RELATED: Gov. Brown orders two-week 'freeze' for Oregon starting Nov. 18

“While the two-week freeze may not directly affect all businesses, we want Oregonians to know that we are in a much better place than we were at the start of the pandemic to respond to an uptick in unemployment claims," said OED's acting director David Gerstenfeld. "We are ready to take your claims and ensure you get your benefits as quickly as possible, whether through an existing benefit program or any new federal program that may get passed."

OED is preparing to increase its claims processing capacity with help from the National Guard. The department is also developing an option for impacted employers to submit employee information in bulk to minimize the need for employees to locate key information that may not be easily accessible.

Oregonians whose employment is impacted by the freeze are advised to take the an eligibility quiz to determine which benefit program they are eligible for.

If a claimant has returned to work and their employment is impacted by the freeze, they will need to restart their claim, the department said. 

Claims can be restarted by going to the OED's Online Claim System and selecting "Restart Your Claim." Those unable to restart their claim this way should contact the department.

RELATED: Oregon, Washington, California issue travel advisories