Help for Those Unemployed Due to Coronavirus
Written By: Becca Robbins, H&N Staff Reporter
Oregonians who have lost their jobs temporarily while employers adjust to impacts from coronavirus-related restrictions can qualify for unemployment insurance and now don’t have to seek new employment in the meantime if they are only out of work temporarily due to COVID-19 and will return when their employer calls them back.
“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,” the Oregon Employment Department announced last week in a news release.
Spokesperson for the Oregon Employment Department Gail Krumenauer pointed those interested in receiving unemployment benefits to the state’s website, oregon.gov/employ/pages/COVID-19.aspx, for an “Unemployment Insurance 101.” This is a resource helpful for those who aren’t familiar with the unemployment program, as Krumenauer said, “fortunately economic disruption like this doesn’t happen all the time.”
Krumenauer said the department continues to add resources as information and legislation relating to COVID-19 changes each day.
The OED also Tweeted on Tuesday that it was experiencing “a record level of requests for unemployment benefits” and that “We continue to move more Employment Department employees from other jobs in the agency to taking unemployment claims, and we have hired new employees to process claims.”
People can file claims by calling, but on Tuesday the department urged people to file on its website to keep phone wait times down.
WorkSource offices across the state, including Klamath’s location at 801 Oak Ave., implemented social distancing practices that move appointments and other operations over the phone and Skype instead of meeting in person. The office will also spread out computer work stations and may limit the number of people inside.
Krumenauer said some areas the department has seen hiring temporary employees for those looking to pick up work right now are the transportation and warehousing industries, including delivery services. Krumenauer said those industries are “particularly relevant given the COVID-19 stay home, save lives objective.”
The state department reported no impact to employment numbers from the coronavirus in February, but that became a different story in March. In two days, unemployment claims jumped from 800 on Sunday, March 15 to 18,500 on Tuesday, March 17, as reported by the OED. Still, a press release stated, “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.”
“Oregon’s labor force data for February shows little impact from the spread of the coronavirus since the February unemployment rate is based on people’s activity during the week that included February 12th,” stated an OED news release. “By mid-February, there had been relatively limited economic impact from the disease in the U.S. In February, there were 69,000 unemployed Oregonians, which was the lowest number in more than 40 years.”