Coronavirus update 9: Emergency funding, Unemployment insurance expansion, PPP round 2 and more

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Rep. Nathanson

Coronavirus update 9: April 29, 2020

Dear friends,

We may not use all the snappiest official graphics that come across our desks, because we're using the space to bring you the latest solid news and information. In this issue you'll read a lot about economic relief, such as: the new Unemployment Insurance for self-employed, contract and gig workers; how businesses can use Work Share to retain employees; student loan debt; reducing auto insurance cost as the accident rate (and risk) has declined; Outdoor School; social outlets for seniors on their own; and lots more.

Wash your hands!



And Team Nathanson: James and Lindsay

Legislature approves emergency funding

Although the Legislature is not in session, the Emergency Board has the authority to spend money from a small emergency fund that the Legislature had set aside in 2019. The Board released over $30 Million to aid critical social service and business needs of Oregonians, to start to fill in some of the gaps not addressed by federal funding. Here’s a summary of where the money is going:

  • $12 million – Safe Shelter and Rental Assistance: rental assistance for individuals who have lost income due to COVID-19 and shelter for individuals at risk of infection or health problems due to inadequate shelter or housing
  • $10 million – Oregon Worker Relief Fund: payments to workers ineligible for unemployment insurance or economic impact payment due to immigration status
  • $10 million – Small Business Assistance for businesses with fewer than 25 employees impacted by COVID-19 economic restrictions that have not received support from federal funding
  • $2 million – Domestic Violence Housing Support: emergency housing for victims of domestic and sexual violence

Full details of the Emergency Board meeting are available here.

Wondering about unemployment insurance?

New! Benefits for self-employed, contract and gig workers

The application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is now open. This program expands Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to a new set of workers traditionally not eligible, including:

  • self-employed
  • independent contracts or “gig” workers
  • performing work not subject to unemployment insurance tax, such as agricultural workers
  • did not earn enough in wages or work enough hours to qualify for regular benefits
  • exhausted regular unemployment benefits, and are not eligible for another extension

Workers eligible for PUA and filing for the first time should use the instructions and application on the CARES Act page.

Workers eligible for PUA who have already applied using the online claims system and have an established PIN number should complete the process using the new PUA Application in English or Spanish.

Claim backlog and FAQ

The Employment Department (OED) is still catching up with the massive influx of new unemployment claims. Prior to the pandemic, about 4,500 new claims were filed a week. The week of the Stay Home order, nearly 90,000 were filed. OED has increased the staff processing claims from 150 to over 500 people, and are hiring more as quickly as they can.

As of April 18th, 325,000 new claims had been filed and 230,000 of those claims had been processed. What remains is a large queue, from people with UI histories that need sorting out, claims from independent contractors who filed before the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application was created, and claims that need identification verification.

If you’re waiting in the queue or have called without being able to talk to someone, this info may help:

  • The system does not recognize weekly claims until the initial one is processed. If you’re getting a message that they can’t find your claim and the initial one hasn’t been processed, the claim is not lost. It just still needs to be processed.
  • The Department is backdating claims which means you won’t lose out on past benefits as they catch up with claims.
  • OED is still advising sending an email is the best way to submit questions and they will get back to you within a week and a half:
  • The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) extra weekly benefit of $600 will be automatically applied to approved claims.

If you’ve sent a question to the COVID email box and haven’t heard back for a couple weeks or have a special case with your claim, email my office and we can try to help sort it out.

For businesses looking to retain employees: Work Share

Work Share is a program that offers an alternative to laying off employees.  It allows a business to keep employees with reduced hours, while unemployment insurance benefits compensate for the lost wages.

In normal circumstances benefits paid out under the Work Share plan would impact an employer’s future UI tax rate the same as any traditional unemployment insurance benefits would. Under recent federal legislation, however, Work Share benefits for March 29 through December 26, 2020 are being reimbursed by the federal government, which means they will not impact the employer’s tax rate.

OED is working on adding staff and recoding their systems to accommodate the new federal change. You can find more information here and direct questions to this email:​.


My recent walk though Alton Baker Park. Advice from the health care community:
Getting outside (while staying a safe distance from others)
can help soothe feelings of anxiety and stress.

More economic relief developments

Student loan debt

These tips for staying on top of student loan payments come from State Treasurer Tobias Read and Executive Director of the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) Seth Frotman. Watch the recording of their conversation here. And see more in this FAQ from the SBPC.

  • As of April 10th, automatic payments are not being processed for federal student loans. If you continue to see payments come out, take steps to get help. Contact your student loan provider ASAP or the Attorney General's office.
  • If you have federal loans, the government cannot keep or redirect your CARES Act payment (also referred to as garnishment) to repay defaulted student loans
  • If you are graduating from college soon, the SBPC recommends signing up for income-based repayment.

Payment protection program

Applications reopened Monday for the second round of funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), designed to help employers keep their employees on the payroll during the COVID-19 crisis. The first round of funding ran out within two weeks and this second round is also expected to go quickly, so get in contact with an approved lender as soon as you can. See approved Oregon lenders here.

If you’re wondering whether your business qualifies or is a good fit for PPP, our local Small Business Development Center, based out of Lane Community College, is a good place to start. Free, confidential advising is available from their staff who have expertise in the details of PPP and other small business relief programs.

Auto insurance: driving less?

The Stay Home, Save Lives order has sharply reduced auto traffic on the roads and with it, the risk of auto accidents. The Department of Consumer & Business Services has been working with several auto insurance companies to secure refunds and credits to auto insurance carriers that reflect the reduced risk of auto liabilities.

A list of insurance companies that have committed to providing refunds and credits can be found here.


Weekly testing summary

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) continues to provide COVID-19 testing through the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory (OSPHL) while Oregon hospitals continue to build their laboratory testing capacity. Several Oregon commercial labs such as Quest and LabCorp provide external testing capacity for the state.

And the University of Oregon has partnered with the McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center to provide drive-through testing, where swabs are collected curbside from patients referred by their primary care provider. Test results come back in 4 hours.

Shortages of testing materials continue to hamper our ability to increase testing. OHA has made weekly requests of the federal government and received a small fraction in response to the requests. OHA has been instructed to go to a singular federal source to get cartridges for the Abbott ID, the rapid test machine, but have had little success getting supplies from this resource. Every state is requesting supplies from the same federal resource and supplies are most often going to the COVID-19 hot spots.


Oregon’s cumulative positive testing rate remains fairly consistent at about 5% of tests performed; this is considerably lower than the national average of 18.4%. Oregon’s low test positivity rate reflects decreasing numbers of individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, due to the stay-at-home order and increasing testing statewide.

Modeling update

The modeling tool Oregon Health Authority has been using to estimate the path of the virus in Oregon and guide COVID-19 planning and response was recalibrated last week. The projections now show there have been about 8,400 cumulative infections in Oregon total, of which 1,900 were diagnosed as of April 16 – and that social distancing measures have prevented about 70,000 infections, including over 1,500 hospitalizations. For an explanation of the modeling, see my newsletter from March 31. The report can be found here.

Questions about coronavirus symptoms and care?

Do you have questions about coronavirus symptoms and care? If so, check with your primary care provider. If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can call the OHSU Hotline at 833-OHSU-CCC or 833-647-8222 and they’ll help answer your questions. It’s open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Visit OHSU’s Resource Page here.

OHSU is also looking for providers who have the capacity to accept new patients through the hotline. Family physicians interested in being added to the referral directory should fill out this form.

Community health initiatives

Trillium Community Health Plan oversees one of the local area’s two coordinated care organizations (CCO). CCOs are partnerships between payers, providers, and community health organizations that provide coordinated health care solutions to members of the Oregon Health Plan. Earlier this month, OHA released a portion of the funding from the Quality Incentive Program to CCOs normally paid out in June, to help with the COVID-19 response. Trillium is using that money for several purposes, including providing an OB/GYN office with 105 blood pressure cuffs so pregnant moms can check blood pressure at home and not have to go into the office, and $1,200 to Carry It Forward for tents, supplies and assistance to individuals who are homeless.

COVID-19 patients can donate plasma to aid recovery efforts

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered, you have the opportunity to donate plasma to The Red Cross, which is partnering with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to evaluate and distribute the antibodies in plasma because they may help other COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms recover.

To be eligible for the program, you must be at least 17 years old and weigh 110 lbs., be in good health (you generally feel well, even if you're being treated for a chronic condition), and have a prior, verified diagnosis of COVID-19, but are now symptom free and fully recovered.

See more information on the program here. For interested clinicians or hospital reps, go here.


My husband and I recently  donated to United Way. There are many other local organizations stretched thin, providing service, and with less funding. If you can,  please help support our local organizations. And if you need help, please just ask. Neighbors, community volunteers, and staff at many organizations are eager to help where they can.

Outdoor School at home

The Oregon State University Service Outdoor School program has created a set of online tools for students to participate in nature learning while in-person instruction and Outdoor School are cancelled for this school year. Weekly lessons are posted with nature observations, journal prompts and activities for families or teachers to use (also available in Spanish). While it’s no replacement for the experience of Outdoor School, students can still experience their natural environment while engaging in distance learning.

See educational nature resources here.

If your family uses one of the online lessons and has a fun time with it, please share with my office and we may feature you in an upcoming newsletter!

Social outlet for seniors

Social connections help keep us healthy while we are physically distancing from each other. To support the mental health needs of Oregonians over 55, Oregon Health Authority has partnered with Senior Loneliness Line. Their team of volunteers and staff are specially trained in working with older adults. They can provide ongoing support, connect callers with resources, or just listen. Your information is completely confidential, and no one will follow up with you unless you request a call.

To get support, call 503-200-1633 or 800-282-7035.

Information resources

Lane County Public Health COVID-19 How testing works video
Oregon Health Authority (with a link to subscribe to their news service)
Oregon Health Plan (open enrollment)
University of Oregon webpage on UO's COVID-19 response
Oregon Office of Emergency Management OEM COVID-19 response
Employment Department: for business: Work Share
Unemployment Insurance Temporary COVID-19 Rules and Online Claims
Bureau of Labor and Industries Coronavirus and Workplace Laws
Department of Human Services.
Department of Education
Oregon Food Bank's Food Finder
Oregon Coronavirus Information, including Stay Home, Save Lives Executive Order FAQ