2nd 2020 Special Session In Review

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Representative Smith Warner


After a whirlwind of a day on Monday, the legislature concluded the Second Special Session of 2020. We were able to rebalance the budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, help workers struggling to get their unemployment benefits and pass long overdue police accountability measures to align Oregon’s use of force laws with federal standards. Below you will find an overview of what we accomplished, as well as some recent updates from the Oregon Employment Department.

BSW Floor Pic

Second Special Session 2020 Policy Bills

Oregon Employment Department Improvements                                                              The legislature had the opportunity to enact a few important measures that could speed up the administration of unemployment benefit programs. While we were able to pass two bills, I was extremely frustrated and disappointed in the failure of a third measure, SB 1702, which would have helped speed up the adjudication process for unemployed education workers waiting for benefits, which would speed up the process for everyone else as well. 

SB 1701 – This bill increases the amount that an unemployed individual may earn from working part-time without losing their unemployment benefits  to $300 or one-third of their weekly benefit. This change would be time-limited, expiring December 31, 2021.

SB 1703  – This bill makes it easier to administer the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program by authorizing the Department of Revenue to share information necessary to verify a person’s identity or income level with the Oregon Employment Department.

Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform                                                                  HB 4301 – This bill updates Oregon’s use of force statutes to align with federal case law, strengthening the standards under which use of physical force or deadly force against another by peace officers is legally justified. It also prohibits the use of chokeholds and other physical force that would impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by police or corrections officers except for instances of self defense. 

Conduct Committee                                                                                                                HCR 221 – This updates the Legislature’s Rule 27 procedures on conduct complaints, reports and investigations, and is one of the bills that was left unfinished by the Republican walkout in the 2020 regular short legislative session. 

Budget Overview

While the COVID-19 pandemic has meant significant budget cuts, we protected the critical services that families need most: education, health care, and the safety of our communities. Thanks to years of responsible budgeting by Democratic leaders, Oregon was the most prepared it has ever been for a recession, and among the best prepared states in the country. Our state has saved about $1.5 billion in reserve funds to help stabilize our schools and other critical services during an economic downturn. You can find a comprehensive list of all of the financial investments that will fund critical programs and projects across the state here

Oregon Employment Department Update

The department has provided new guidance about the Benefits While You Wait program and new information about gross earnings for PUA claimants  Now, when reporting self-employed earnings on the weekly certification, gross earnings is defined as gross receipts received during the week minus 25% of the prior months' expenses. For more in depth information about this, you can tune into OED’s webinar tomorrow, Thursday August 13, 2020. You can register here

Important Links                                                                                                          Employment Department Contact Us form

Step by Step PUA Form 

Media Briefing 8-5-2020

Helpful Q&As from the Employment Department 

  1. How long does it take for me to see an update online after talking to someone at OED who made a change and says I will be able to see it online? In most situations, changes should be reflected overnight (changes made on Saturday may not be reflected until the following Tuesday)

  2. How many weeks once a Work Share application is approved until they should be seeing payments? It may take up to eight weeks. That timeframe is shortening, and many people begin to receive benefits more quickly, but particularly if it is a very large plan, it can take time for all of the individual claims for people covered by the plan to be processed and start paying.  

  3. I'd love to see the ability to apply for direct deposit with the initial application, rather than needing to wait for one's claim to be processed. For too many folks, their payments get put on the ReliaCard, and then they have to deal with an added layer of hassle (and delay) of transferring their funds to their bank accounts or withdrawing them from an ATM. We would like to see this, too. Early in this recession we tried to make this change. Unfortunately, it was not working as intended and was creating significant issues that we have not had the ability, given the work needed to stand up new programs and get other priorities done, to return to this work.

  4. There appears to be a lot of Uber/Lyft drivers in the mix of PUA applicants. Will those groups of claims take additional time due to the nature of drivers’ independent contractor status by the rideshare companies versus the tests OED uses for classification determination? It will depend on whether the people did this type of work during their ‘base year’ period or not. We are seeing many people who are now doing this type of work, but were not during their base year, so it is not an issue that we have to address for them. If they did gig work during their base year, we do have to determine whether their earnings are covered by the UI system and allow them to get regular UI benefits, or if they are not and the person may be eligible for PUA. We have already reviewed the relationship for many ‘gig’ businesses, so do not have to do a full audit for people who performed services for those businesses – we already know whether we classify them as self-employment earnings or wages covered by the UI system. 

  5. A constituent that has exhausted all of their benefits, gone through 13 weeks of regular UI, then 13 weeks of PEUC, then 13 weeks of EB will expire next week. Should I tell them to go ahead and file for PUA, or are they in fact at the end of their benefits? If someone has used up all 26 weeks of regular benefits, and 13 weeks of PEUC, they should be eligible for up to 20 weeks of EB benefits right now (we are in a “high extended benefits” or HEB situation so there are more weeks available). If those also exhaust, it is possible the person may be eligible for a new regular benefits claim, or for PUA or, unfortunately in some situations, the person may not be eligible for any benefits we administer. The best approach is for the person to continue filing weekly claims.

  6. Can you tell me how the OED unemployment works for people associated with schools?There are federal and state laws that apply specifically to people who work for educational institutions. We have information about these laws on our website.

  7. For Oregonians who had active unemployment claims prior to the COVID shutdown, what options do they have for extending or continuing their claim if they are unable to return to work due to COVID restrictions? What do these folks need to do, and where do they go for information, if they will need benefits after their initial unemployment claim expires? There are several extension programs in place right now, including PEUC and EB, and depending on a number of factors, people may be eligible for one of those, for PUA, or for a new regular UI claim. The best place for information is our new website.The best generally applicable approach is to continue filing weekly claims. In many cases, they will automatically be asked the few additional questions needed for them to begin receiving PEUC benefits. If we do need additional information, we will reach out to the person. While we are increasing our speed of getting people onto these extensions, it is still taking us several weeks at this point.

  8. Constituent received checks and denial letters at the same time. What do they do with the letters and checks? Checks have already been deposited. Should constituents be concerned? There are many different scenarios that could have happened. The most likely is that the person filed for both regular UI and PUA, received checks under one program and notices under the other informing them that they cannot get benefits under that other program. Another possibility is that there were issues with the weeks that were at least partially addressed – that the letters were triggered by our automatic systems, but an employee took required action for benefits to be paid out. If the letters were asking for additional information, the person should complete them and get them back to us (if it is the same question, and the same answer, for all of the weeks, they can send just one back and indicate the time period that their information covers).

  9. When using the new online PUA form, how do I know that I have successfully submitted the form? I didn't get back an automatic email confirming my submission. We are working to provide a confirmation email, but do not know when that will be available. In the meantime, if you check your claim status the next day (or Tuesday morning if you submit it after 7:00 pm on a Saturday), you should see the weekly claim reflected.

Please reach out to my office if you have any additional questions, or if there’s anything you think I could help with. 



Representative Barbara Smith Warner
House District 45

email: Rep.BarbaraSmithWarner@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1445
address: 900 Court St NE, H-295, Salem, OR 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/smithwarner