The Useful Duck!

Contribute to my Vacation, please...

Monday, April 29, 2024

Oregon's New Unemployment Program has a clever name but doesn't work. Frances is a slow learner or just more administrative dysfunction

My unemployment misadventure is becoming less entertaining.

I have collected zero unemployment benefits. This is not the end of the world for me as I don't pay rent and I have a freezer full of beef. However, there are people in Oregon losing their homes because of the failure of Frances.

Frances is the clever acronym for the new Oregon Unemployment Insurance benefits website. It went online March 1st of 2024. It was not a complete failure, only a partial failure.

I expect any new software to have some bugs but the problem with glitches in the Frances website are compounded by the structure of the State of Oregon administrative state. 

If something goes wrong with your claim, there is no reliable way to fix it. Sure, the spokesman will say there are several options for help built into the system. That is true. But they actually solve the problems people are having.

There is an online chat icon. I think it is an owl. It bounces with enthusiasm when you ask it a question. I found that despite the nice graphic, it is mostly programmed with stock answers to imagined questions. There is supposedly a live chat also but I have very mixed results with that option.

There is a phone number to call for help. The phone number is always busy. If you get past the first busy signal then you get a second busy signal and it hangs up on you.

There is a message feature that is a little hard to find. This is NOT email or text messaging as you might imagine. You write a message in the Frances website and you are assigned a number. You may or may not get a speedy reply. You must use that number with all correspondence. 

I found it is best to list only one problem at a time and include your phone number. At first there was a really good chance of getting help. I spoke on the phone with a couple people and they really helped me. However, they called me as I had included my phone number in my message. Now they don't even answer my messages.

The live helpers are limited in what they can do. This is also the problem with going in to a WorkSource Oregon location. The live people I talked to were very helpful. They could all look at my account and see possible problems, but they could not fix the problems,. Apparently there are caseworkers behind the scenes who make the decisions and they are separated from the real world by a wall of bureaucracy.

Also, I suspect those caseworkers are actually contract workers in India.

My problems with Frances started March 1st. 

Suddenly, my password would no longer work. I could not prove my identity but I was in the system. It took a month but I found someone who helped me. I can't really talk about that made a promise. I was lucky.

I can now log in. And whhile I missed the March unemployment because I couldn't record my job search, I was eligible in February and April forward.

Every week I log my job search and every week I get declined. 

The letter states that since I worked at an educational institution Oregon law requires that I verify that I am not on spring break. (I swear I am not making this up) I have filled out questionnaires asking me this question. I have written messages stating that I worked in facilities and we work during spring and summer breaks, I went as far as to point out that even if they didn't want to pay me for the week of spring break, there were no Schools that had a three month spring break!

I have written messages online. I tried to file and appeal online. I even wrote an actual letter and sent it though the US Postal Service.

Last Thursday I went to WorkSource Oregon location (again) and I bought my letters and I ask for help. The fellow was a little grumpy which I don't mind. I actually prefer grumpy and effective to happy and a bit dim. He dives in to my file.

After a lot of muttering behind his computer he comes up with this diagnosis. Someone keeps denying me benefits because they think I am on spring break. My former employer may be objecting to my collection. of benefits but he can't tell if that is the case. He didn't think they had responded yet.

So I went home and email the head of the University HR and asked her. I got a very nice and very quick reply. They were not objecting and she was going to log into Frances from her end and see if she could fix the problem. 

We shall see...

In other news:

I have been working like a dog! Unfortunately for me, I cannot charge for my work as I must not have any income or I will have serious insurance problems. I have been helping out neighbors and building a sprayer. As long as my diesel tank is full and someone helps me load bags, I am good.

I no-tilled oats in a little valley that I never knew existed

I am building a sprayer for the Gator. Since I have no income I have been using up all the parts I bought on sale and buckets of leftovers from other projects. It is going to be interesting. A seven nozzle sprayer with a five section auto rate controller, gps speed control, and output for my FarmerGPS guidance system. Pretty much overkill for a 15 foot RTV sprayer and a 50 gallon tank!

Friends from Church invited us to an Alabama tribute band concert. It was absolutely entertaining. There were old folks dancing in the aisles. Plus they totally rocked. They also ROCKED really black wigs. Our friends said they have been going to tribute band concerts. They saw a Eagles cover band and a Led Zeppelin cover band. This might be a good plan. They tribute bands are fans and they love the music. They were not bored with playing the same songs. It is also cheap. You are not paying $150 and up to see a group of 80 year olds mumble through the words. Of course the bonus real bands is might get to see Bono have a heart attack on stage. This is also the bonus when you watch Joe Biden eat an ice cream.. But I digress...

Thursday, April 4, 2024

It takes a computer genius to figure out unemployment benefits, or an idiot...

Do you remember all the stories of people who make a career out of collecting unemployment benefits? There is absolute essential truth to that concept but it is not what you think.

I qualify for a whopping $350 a month in unemployment benefits. At this time I have collected ZERO ($0). I have spent an inordinate amount of time online and on the phone. Phone time consists of listening to a busy signal to the main exchange and then getting disconnected. Sometimes I make it past the main exchange and then get the inside busy signal and then I get disconnected.

Things started off promising. The State of Oregon had a kind of clunkly webpage without a lot of graphics and a bare bones type reporting system. After filling out the online question boxes I was able to log in and get started. 

I even got a call from a nice lady who said she was an abjudicator and was handling my case. She was very helpful. But things soon started going wrong.

I was supposed to go to a WorkSource Oregon location and prove my identity. However, I found where I could do it online and I attempted that. I chose the online method, as it said in the instructions that, I needed to make an appointment with WorkSource Oregon and I was supposed to use a toll free number. The number didn't work. The other magic number, (877) 345-3484 might as well be disconnected as it is always busy.

My mistake was silly and simple. I had to go in to my local WorkSource Oregon and speak to a live person. I assumed that if the phones were busy there would be a five hour line at the live location. 

I knew I had to get this all done before March first because the State was switching to a new system called FrancesOnline March 1, 2024. This new system would be better and the phone numbers would all be fixed.

March first I was locked out. I could no longer report my job searches, my password and identity got me into a dead end loop and I did not get my letter to prove I was real. (Note: All I had to do was go to the Worksource Oregon physical location) 

Since the phones do not work I had to send in messages. The message system is pretty ineffective. You ask a question and are given an id number. This number has to be in the subject line of all messages. You cannot establish an email chain. You are not given a contact number for any one person. But, the messages are all signed by the same first name.

My adjudicator lady can view my file I am not sure she cannot act on anything. My message lady can view my file but she can't talk to me. I had to wait for letters through the US Postal Service to verify my identity so I could log in.

Finally, last week I was able to sign in. I was able to report last week's job search, but not the previous two weeks. I thought one out of three was ok. It was promptly declined.

So I called my abjudicator. She was very helpful but she said I had to get myself into the WorkSource Oregon physical location and register. So I did.

It wasn't bad. There was no line. I used their computer to step up another profile that is supposedly linked to the other profile. Then I had an interview with a nice guy who is giving me help with my resume and options for retraining. 

I may be able to get a certificate in Sports turf management from one of the OSU's (Ohio State has a better program for sports but Oregon State may be better for me due to the agriculture side of things). I probably should get a Welding Certificate, or HVAC, or Accounting. I can't make decisions. 

Today I spent hours trying to get everything from two days ago to work. Layers upon layers. After spending hours trying to get things moving and another hour redialing the helpline I called my nice lady again. 

She called me back after lunch and explained everything to me. I was not wrong, only mildly confused. I had filled out the proper questions and it would just take a few days to update. Plus, I was a week ahead on my reporting so all is well.

It is amazing when you can talk to a live person...

Have a nice day!

Monday, April 1, 2024

Administrative Malaise and Frances Online, Life in the People's Republic of Oregon

The administrative state is worse than the bureaucratic state, or is it just the head of the snake?

I gave you a link to a report by the Heritage Institute so there is your morning's reading.

I am setting in my easy chair and it is a beautiful day outside. I need to be volunteering on my Brother's Farm. I am attempting to collect Unemployment from the State of Oregon.

Yes there is a reason I qualified for Unemployment. Yes, there is a rumor that 17 other people will be "separated," from LU in the next year. Yes, LU is going broke. They are unable to recruit enough students to make up for "rising costs." 

Yes, basically all the roofs on campus need to be replaced. Yes they have been "saving money," by deferring maintenance. 

After wasting eight years of my life driving a lawnmower in circles at the institution, I do have opinions. 

LU has been top heavy with administration who don't really understand why students choose a small college. The solutions to the budget crisis have resulted in anyone really qualified and innovative either learning to shut up and wait for retirement/or child's graduation, or find another job. 

But, there is a lot of administrating going on. There are people gathering statistics and there are people misreading them and there are people writing reports and there are people having meetings. Lots of meetings.

And here is where I had to laugh in humorless sympathy with my caseworker.

The State of Oregon decided to revamp their unemployment insurance claims system. They started a new website and it has the clever acronym, "Frances." 

Frances started the first of March and pretty much disconnected anyone who had signed up ahead of time.

After a number of emails I found out that somehow they had an incorrect birthdate for me. It was hinted that this was probably not my fault.

Of course, I have not reported jobs since March 1 because I couldn't sign in or call in because the most basic of problems, my date of birth did not match my social security number.

In a proper third world bureaucracy there would be an office and a lot of forms and a rubber stamp and most importantly, someone I could bribe. In the PRO (People's Republic of Oregon) the only currency you have is politeness and a nice sense of humor. 

Things I discovered at the other Administrative State run Institution, be really nice to the people who actually do the work. They are tired of being yelled at.

I promised my person that I would not talk about how we figured out my problem so I will not discuss the idiotic administrative rules that prevent a humble public servant from doing their job. But, we shared a moment of understanding...

Please leave comments! It is really easy!

You just type your comment in the text box below the post. You can be anyone you want.
And...Would the joker who keeps clicking "offensive" please leave an explanation ?!