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Oregonians applying for unemployment insurance will use new website in March

A screenshot of Oregon's paid leave website.
Oregon Employment Department
Oregon Employment Department
Oregon's unemployment and paid leave website uses "Frances Online" to file and process claims.

Changes are coming to the way Oregonians apply for unemployment benefits.

Starting on March 4, those seeking unemployment insurance will submit claims on a new website called Frances Online. It’s part of the state’s $106 million, multi-year effort to upgrade the Oregon Employment Department’s technology to make it more secure and user-friendly.

The state has been gradually migrating to the new system, and the unemployment insurance claims portal is the last major step in the transition, according to Unemployment Insurance Director Lindsi Leahy.

“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 system dates back to the 1990s. Multiple state audits have found that it was unable to handle complicated claims and had trouble incorporating rule changes. Officials acknowledged it lacked streamlined ways for people to communicate with the state about their claims.

Before the new system goes live for users, both the old and new online portals will be down for a few days in preparation for the launch on March 4. Starting at 5 p.m. on Feb. 28, users will not be able to access the sites, including for Paid Leave Oregon. Also, customer service phone lines and online support will be closed starting on Feb. 28 and won’t reopen until Frances goes live.

Officials say to avoid an interruption in benefits, claims must be submitted in the old system by 5 p.m. on Feb. 28. Unemployment insurance claimants will then need to create a new account in Frances after 8 a.m. on March 4, officials say.

The Oregon Employment Department had been in the process of updating the antiquated online portal but hadn’t yet made the switch when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. The resulting wave of suddenly unemployed Oregonians applying for benefits overwhelmed the old system, infusing even more confusion during an already puzzling time.

The department is still trying to iron out issues stemming from the pandemic, including disputes regarding overpayments. The Oregon Law Center is representing multiple Oregonians claiming the process for establishing and recouping alleged overpayments violated their constitutional due process rights. A judge could rule on the case as early as mid-February.

Oregon Employment Department Director David Gerstenfeld says Frances Online is more secure and user friendly than the old system. He said instead of having multiple channels for communication, a frustration of users in the past, Frances will be the one-stop portal for secure email and a live chat.

“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.”
Copyright 2024 Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Kyra Buckley