Although the Oregon Employment Department believes it isn’t feasible to update its computer systems to waive the normal one-week waiting period to obtain unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she’ll work with the department to make it happen. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided federal funding for states to temporarily waive the waiting week.
On April 16, 2020, the Oregon Employment Department issued a press release which stated, “The Employment Department will continue to examine opportunities to improve services to Oregonians, such as waiving the ‘waiting week’ for benefits. As of now, waiving the waiting week requires thousands of hours of programming, and would delay processing record numbers of claims that are getting benefits to Oregonians who need them now.” Meanwhile, Governor Brown had already written a letter to Oregon’s Congressional delegation on April 15 to say that she would work with the department to correct the problem.
Tips: Public pressure to waive the waiting week, coupled with the strong desire of the governor and Oregon legislators to do so, makes it likely the task will eventually be accomplished in the form of retroactive payments. But given the enormous challenges in updating the department’s antiquated computer systems, it could be a long time before unemployed workers actually receive benefits to cover their initial week of being unemployed.
The Employment Department also released some statistics showing the job losses in different industries. It shows that the manufacturing sector in Oregon has lost 14,637 jobs to COVID-19 since March 15, 2020. Hardest hit sectors include job losses of more than 52,000 jobs in Leisure and Hospitality. The state has experienced unprecedented total job losses of around 300,000. The Employment Department also recently released a flow chart for claimants concerning the enhanced unemployment benefits authorized under the CARES Act.
Vigilant will continue to monitor this situation and report any updates to members. In the meantime, you should refrain from making any specific promises to workers regarding their unemployment benefits. Instead, direct employees to the Oregon Employment Department.