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Oregon Employment Department to upgrade its system, online service to be unavailable from Feb. 28 to March 4

Oregon – Big changes are on the horizon for how people in Oregon get unemployment benefits.

From March 4, if you need unemployment insurance, you’ll be using a brand-new site called Frances Online. This change is part of Oregon’s big project, costing $106 million over several years, to improve the technology at the Oregon Employment Department. They want to make it safer and easier for everyone to use.

This is final step of upgrading the new system

Oregon has been slowly moving to this new setup, and switching the unemployment claims over to Frances Online is a big final step, says Lindsi Leahy, the Unemployment Insurance Director.

“Frances Online is the same system that we’re already using to pay benefits for Paid Leave Oregon and collect employer contributions for paid leave and unemployment insurance,” Leahy told reporters on Wednesday. “We’ve been working hard to deliver this new system for a long time, and we are excited about the upcoming migration because Frances Online will address several challenges that our customers have contended with in our old systems.”

The old technology was from the 1990s and wasn’t doing a great job anymore. It struggled with complex claims and updating rules. Plus, it was hard for people to get in touch with the state about their claims, something state audits pointed out multiple times.

Online services to be inactive for a few days before the launch

Before the new Frances Online system starts, both the current and upcoming websites will be offline for a bit. This will happen just before the launch on March 4, starting from 5 p.m. on February 28. This means you won’t be able to get onto the sites, including for Paid Leave Oregon. Also, starting February 28, you won’t be able to call customer service or get help online until Frances Online is up and running.

To make sure there’s no break in getting benefits, you need to have your claims in using the old system by 5 p.m. on February 28. After that, you’ll have to set up a new account on Frances Online starting after 8 a.m. on March 4.

Read also: Oregon SNAP benefits users can ask for help if they had to throw food in recent ice storm

The Oregon Employment Department was already updating its outdated online system before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. When a lot of people suddenly lost their jobs and applied for benefits, the old system just couldn’t keep up, making a confusing time even harder.

The department is still sorting out problems from the pandemic, like disagreements over too much money being paid out. The Oregon Law Center is helping some people who say the way the department is trying to get back the extra payments isn’t fair. There might be a decision from a judge on this issue by the middle of February.

David Gerstenfeld, the director of the Oregon Employment Department, mentioned that Frances Online will be safer and easier to use compared to the old system. He highlighted that, instead of dealing with many different ways to get in touch, which was a hassle before, Frances Online will offer a single place for secure emails and live chat.

Read also: House prices expected to go up this year, two Oregon cities to see above-average increase

“We think, after some initial bumps as every person – including all of our employees – get used to the new system,” Gerstenfeld said, “That it will really offer a lot of benefits for customer service.”

Booker Whitfield

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