SALEM, Ore. — The new coronavirus and Oregon's restrictions intended to stop its spread have caused a sudden boom in laid-off or furloughed workers. On Wednesday the Oregon Employment Department announced that it had eased rules in order to account for the influx of people seeking unemployment benefits.
"The health and safety of workplaces is of utmost importance to the Oregon Employment Department, and the agency’s mission is to support business and promote employment," it said in a statement. "The Employment Department has guidance available to employers, workers, and job seekers impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus situation."
OED said that the number of unemployment claims shot from about 800 on Sunday to 18,500 by Tuesday.
Unemployment insurance benefits are supposed to extend to most workers who are out of work "through no fault of their own," OED said. Workers have to meet certain requirements to receive those benefits, however.
"In general, to claim and receive unemployment benefits for a week, workers must be available for work, able to work, and actively look for work they can do," the agency said.
On Wednesday, OED adopted new temporary rules to gain greater flexibility in providing benefits to workers affected by the COVID-19 response.
"Unemployment Insurance benefits are available during temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 situations," the agency continued. "These benefits occur for employees whose employer stops operation for a short period of time, such as cleaning following a coronavirus exposure, or by government requirement. Workers can get unemployment benefits, and do not need to seek work with other employers if their place of employment will resume operations."
In order to receive benefits, affected workers must still be able to work, stay in contact with their employer, and be available to work when called back. For more information or to find a claim, you can visit the OED website here.
"Although we know the COVID-19 coronavirus is causing a reduction in economic activity both nationally and in Oregon, it’s too early for unemployment rate or payroll jobs numbers to show the impact of these employment disruptions," OED said. "The Employment Department will provide more information online as updated data become available."