Gov. Kate Brown has fired the director of the Oregon Employment Department, Kay Erickson, amid a massive backlog of unpaid jobless claims and the immense amount of time some callers are spending on hold or waiting for responses from her agency.
The governor will replace Erickson with her deputy, David Gerstenfeld.
"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. "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."
The firing, announced early Sunday afternoon, comes days after Erickson admitted to state lawmakers that fewer than half of the more than 400,000 Oregonians who filed unemployment claims had received benefits.
In the wake of that revelation, Oregon's Democratic U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley demanded answers why Oregonians weren't receiving the federal employment dollars the senators had secured. Wyden demanded Erickson's firing.
That left Brown with few options.
"In these incredibly stressful times, Oregon families are counting on these benefits," Brown said today. "We will make this right. Oregonians will receive the benefits that they are owed."