Navigating Unemployment - May 14th

Senator Ginny Burdick

Navigating Unemployment

Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

Over the past two months, my office has been responding to constituents who are facing difficulties navigating the unemployment system. We know these are trying times and we hear your frustrations. Many of your questions have concerned claim processing wait times and resources available for self-employed people, independent contractors and gig economy workers.

The Oregon Employment Department (OED) has said that unemployment claims are taking longer to process than initially estimated. Recently, the OED started accepting claims for self-employed people, independent contractors and gig economy workers through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. While these are the two most common topics, we know that you may have others. The answers to many of your questions and more may be found in this newsletter. 

Filing for Unemployment

Filing A New Claim Application During COVID-19


Many of you have had questions on how to file an unemployment claim during this time. One resource we recommend for getting these questions answered is the Oregon Employment Department's YouTube channel. For example, click on the above video for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to file a new claim for unemployment. 

It is also important to note that they are backdating claims when appropriate. This means that if you have trouble reaching their office, you won’t lose out on past benefits while OED are catching up on processing claimsincluding the additional $600/week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

In the past, we have told constituents that the best way to get a response for questions about unemployment claims is by emailing OED at  However, OED has recently let legislators know that this is no longer the most efficient way to get in touch due to the high volume of emails that they have received. The agency has increased the number of team members trained to address the email backlog but for now, we have been advised not to forward you along to that email box until the backlog has been addressed.

In the meantime, we are working to find alternative ways for you to get in touch with OED about specific questions and issues. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has begun to accept unemployment claims for previously ineligible workers. Eligible for this program are self-employed people, independent contractors, gig-economy workers and people who did not earn enough in wages or work enough hours to qualify for regular unemployment benefits.

The OED has created this website with more information about applying for the PUA. Detailed instructions for applying for this new program are here

There are three ways to begin a new application for PUA benefits:

  • E-mail: You can email to request a secure email link, then attach your PUA application and weekly claim reports to the secure email.
    • Please only use the secure email link the department sends to provide personal identifying information relevant to your claim.
  • Mail: You can mail your PUA application and weekly claim reports to the Oregon Employment Department at P.O. Box 14165, Salem, OR 97311.
  • Fax: The Oregon Employment Department has several fax machines linked to the 503-371-2893 fax number for your PUA application and weekly claim reports.

Businesses Reopening

With the possibility of some businesses beginning to reopen soon, the Oregon Employment Department stated that employees may still be eligible for benefits if they are:

  • Ill with COVID-19
  • Potentially exposed to COVID-19 and subjected to a mandatory quarantine period
  • Staying home to care for a family member, or other person they live with or who they provide care for, who is suffering from COVID-19 or subject to mandatory quarantine
  • Unable to work because they have to stay home to care for a child due to the closure of schools, child care providers, or similar facilities due to COVID-19
  • Asked to work when it would require them to act in violation of a mandatory quarantine or government directive
  • Unable to work because they have been advised by their health care provider or by advice issued by public health officials to self-quarantine due to possible risk of exposure to or spread of COVID-19

Phase One

At this time, 33 out of 36 Oregon counties have applied to enter Phase One of the Governor's framework for reopening. Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties have not yet applied as there is still some work to be done before these counties may move forward. 

Some retailers will be able to re-open starting tomorrow, May 15, as long as they can maintain physical distancing requirements during operation. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available. 

Is someone eligible to receive benefits if they return to work?

If someone is either working full-time or earns more than their regular weekly benefit amount (the extra $600 does not factor in to this computation), they are not eligible for any benefits for that week. If they work less than full time and earn less than their weekly benefit amount, they can generally receive at least some benefits that week. They can earn up to either $125 per week (ten times the highest minimum wage in Oregon) or 1/3 of their regular weekly benefit amount, whichever is higher, without any reduction in their benefits. Any amount earned over that threshold reduces their weekly benefits dollar for dollar. For any week between March 29 and July 25, 2020, if they receive any benefits at all in a week, they also receive the additional $600.  

Work Systems Webinars 

Work Systems, Inc., the Portland Metro-area local workforce development agency, has just announced a series of survival-skill webinars MWF at 2:00 pm. The webinars are open to anyone struggling with unemployment insurance, health care and other system challenges. 

These include information on: 

    • Unemployment Insurance including updates on expanded eligibility, increased payments for workers laid off due to COVID-19, and expected timelines for receiving benefits.
      • This information will be presented by staff from the Oregon Employment Department.
    • Information related to business closures and layoffs.
    • Information on the best way to reach the Oregon Employment Department to file or check on an Unemployment Insurance claim.
    • Health insurance options.
      • This information will be presented by staff from the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace.
    • Available options for aid if you have been laid off or furloughed.
    • Other resources available to support you through this situation.

Paycheck Protection Program

Every Oregon household is feeling the impact of COVID-19, both in terms of physical and financial hardships. 

Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding is still available so small businesses can continue to pay their employees for up to eight weeks. These loans are forgivable if the guidelines are followed. 

We know you saw the headlines about the glitches in the program early on – the demand was huge and financial institutions worked hard to push some 14 years’ worth of funding through in the first 14 days.

We are hearing amazing stories from participating Oregon credit unions and banks who are putting in long hours to help small businesses. As of May 1, financial institutions in Oregon had obtained more than 31,000 loans for small businesses, totaling over $3 billion. The good news is that as of May 8, there was still about $125 billion in funding available. We’d like to see more of that money help Oregon businesses and the families who depend on them.

Contact your financial institution or the SBA to find a local lender who can help you apply.

Going Forward

Tomorrow at 1:00 PM, the Joint Emergency Board of the Oregon Legislature will meet virtually to address federal coronavirus relief fund distribution around the state. The meeting may be viewed via this link

Other Resources 

If you have missed any of my previous newsletters, they may be found here. For any additional questions or concerns that these newsletters are not addressing, please reach out to my office so that we may continue to be a resource for you. 

Yours in Sequestration, 

GB Signature

Senator Ginny Burdick 
Senate Majority Leader 
District 18

email: I phone: 503-986-1718
address: 900 Court St NE, S-223, Salem, OR, 97301


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