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New "Gross Earnings" Definition Helps More Self-Employed Oregonians Qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits - 08/12/20

August 12, 2020 (Salem, Ore.) -- Self-employed claimants could get a boost today from the Oregon Employment Department. New guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor gives the agency more flexibility to set the definition of “gross earnings” for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims.

The new definition now takes self-employed PUA claimants’ expenses into account. Before the new definition of “gross earnings,” benefits for self-employed claimants were solely determined on gross receipts. The Oregon Employment Department is now defining “gross earnings” as gross receipts received during the week, minus 25 percent of the prior calendar month’s expenses. Expenses include the business portion of rent, utilities, products, materials, and office supplies.

Under the new definition, some PUA self-employed claimants who previously reported too much in gross receipts to qualify for benefits could now receive some additional weeks of benefits. This also applies to self-employed claimants who had a reduced benefit amount.

This definition will be used going forward, and will also be applied retroactively. That means some self-employed PUA claimants could get benefits or higher payments for weeks they already claimed. Updated claims resulting in new weeks of PUA benefits will also receive the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) for eligible weeks between March 29 and July 25, 2020.

“This change could bring substantial financial relief to thousands of self-employed Oregonians who are or have been out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We heard these concerns of our self-employed PUA claimants, and are happy that we have found a way to address them,” said acting director David Gerstenfeld.

Getting higher weekly PUA benefit payments only applies to those who:

  • Are self-employed (claimants do not get W-2 tax forms),
  • Qualify for PUA,
  • Submitted weekly PUA claims using the old definition of “gross earnings,” which was simply total gross receipts for that week, and
  • Updated “gross earnings” are lower than their maximum weekly benefit amount (not including the $600 FPUC benefits).

Self-employed PUA claimants who wish to request a higher weekly benefit payment may report up to 20 weeks of updated “gross earnings” by visiting the PUA Gross Earnings page on unemployment.oregon.gov. It will take us up to six weeks to complete the “gross earnings” review. We will notify claimants via email when their review is complete. If claimants qualify for any adjustments, they should get their payments within one week of the completion of the review. Self-employed PUA claimants who received the full benefit amount do not need to update their gross earnings for those weeks.

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Note to media: For the latest numbers on unemployment claims processing, an online version of the above press release, and today’s full media briefing recording, visit the Oregon Employment Department’s media page at unemployment.oregon.gov/media. The video and audio will be posted later today.

 

Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld to hold weekly media briefing - 08/11/20

WHO:              David Gerstenfeld, Acting Director, Oregon Employment Department
 

WHEN:            Wed., Aug. 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. PT (NOTE: This week’s media availability will be held at a different than usual time.)

WHAT:            Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld will hold a video conference media briefing to share updates on unemployment claims processing on Wed. Aug. 12 at 2:00 p.m. PT. Gerstenfeld will provide an update on federal and state legislation, self-employed PUA claims processing, and overall unemployment claims progress.

WHERE:         Via Zoom video conference; Members of the media must RSVP for call information by emailing OED_Communications@oregon.gov by 12:00 p.m. PT on Wed., Aug. 12. Video conference information will be provided to all reporters who RSVP.

OTHER:          The Oregon Employment Department is updating a claims processing progress data dashboard daily. Visit this link for week day updates. A recording of the video conference will be sent out shortly after the media briefing concludes.

 

 

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SUPPORT BUSINESS • PROMOTE EMPLOYMENT

Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

Attached Media Files: 8.12_Media_availability.pdf
Oregon Employment Department Completes Processing of 70,000 PUA Claims, Clears Remaining Claims Ahead of Schedule - 08/05/20

August 5, 2020 (SALEM, ORE.) – The Oregon Employment Department announced today that they met their  FOCUS PUA goal of processing 70,000 remaining initial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims on August 4, several days ahead of the August 8 deadline the Department set for itself. The Department is now current with processing regular and PUA unemployment claims, and processing new ones that come in at a record rate, so Oregonians can start getting paid the benefits they are owed.

“We hope that more Oregonians are now starting to feel relief,” said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department. “The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program’s new online form has also helped in processing weekly claims, so more Oregonians will start getting their benefits much more quickly.”

In the past week, the Department processed more than 20,000 initial PUA claims, as with the week prior, signaling the increased speed at which the Department is now working. The Department has already redirected employees to other work needed to get people their benefits.

“It’s important to remember that while some claims may need more attention for benefits to be sent, that initial processing is a critical first step. I am happy to report that the Department has removed one more barrier to Oregonians getting their critically needed regular unemployment or PUA.”

Gerstenfeld noted that additional barriers still remain, but that the Department is moving in the right direction, and is continuing to build positive momentum.

“We have turned a corner in getting Oregonians their benefits more quickly. It has certainly taken more time than we’d like. But we’re getting there, and we are committed to doing everything we can to make this easier for everyone,” said Gerstenfeld in his weekly media briefing.

Last week the Department announced they had found a way to pay tens of thousands of Oregonians “Benefits While You Wait.” The Department is proactively reaching out to Oregonians who may be eligible for those benefits while their claims are being reviewed by an adjudicator.

Gerstenfeld also shared that the Department is committed to getting the modernization of the Department’s computer system back on track.

“We are well-positioned to modernize in a way that will help Oregonians get the benefits they deserve in a timely fashion. We now have a talented team of employees. I am now responsible for the success of this project and intend to do everything I can to make real progress—and quickly.” 

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Note to media: For the latest numbers on unemployment claims processing, an online version of the above press release, and today’s full media briefing recording, visit the Oregon Employment Department’s media page at unemployment.oregon.gov/media. The video and audio will be posted later today.

 

 

Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld to hold weekly media - 08/04/20

WHO:              David Gerstenfeld, Acting Director, Oregon Employment Department

WHEN:            Wed., Aug. 5, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. PT

WHAT:            Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld will hold a video conference media briefing to share updates on unemployment claims processing on Wed. Aug. 5 at 1:00 p.m. PT. Gerstenfeld will provide an update on PUA claims processing, FOCUS PUA, adjudication and overall unemployment claims progress.

WHERE:         Via Zoom video conference; Members of the media must RSVP for call information by emailing OED_Communications@oregon.gov by 12:00 p.m. PT on Wed., Aug. 5. Video conference information will be provided to all reporters who RSVP.

OTHER:          The Oregon Employment Department is updating a claims processing progress data dashboard daily. Visit this link for week day updates. A recording of the video conference will be sent out shortly after the media briefing concludes.

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Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

Attached Media Files: 8.05_Media_availability_Final.pdf
Tens of Thousands of Oregonians Awaiting Adjudication Could Receive Unemployment Benefits While They Wait - 07/31/20

July 31, 2020 (Salem, Ore.) –The Oregon Employment Department today announced that it has found a way to pay benefits to thousands of Oregonians who are out of work due to COVID-19 while they wait for their claim, or “Benefits While You Wait.” This applies to Oregonians who are waiting for their claim to be reviewed by an adjudicator to determine whether they are eligible for regular unemployment or the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

“We are confident this group of Oregonians are eligible for benefits because they lost their job due to COVID-19, we just don’t know which program they are eligible for yet,” said Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld. “We have found a workaround that will allow us to pay benefits while their claims are being reviewed by an adjudicator. We are grateful we have figured out a way to do this because Oregonians have been waiting too long.”

The Employment Department is proactively notifying claimants who have been identified to fall into this group via email and robo calls. 

Strict laws governing unemployment insurance to prevent fraud and provide people due process require that each claim be reviewed. The Employment Department estimates that tens of thousands of Oregonians whose claims are in adjudication may be eligible for PUA if they are not eligible for regular unemployment. This pool of Oregonians could begin receiving “Benefits While You Wait.” We are going to contact people who may be able to receive “Benefits While You Wait” over the next several weeks.

Oregonians who may be eligible for “Benefits While You Wait”:

  1. Applied for regular unemployment benefits;
  2. Had their claim flagged for adjudication because the Employment Department has to determine if they meet the legal requirements to get regular unemployment benefits;
  3. They are out of work due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason (see full list below); AND
  4. Are likely eligible for PUA if they cannot receive regular unemployment benefits.

For now, people should continue filing their weekly claims as they have been. We will notify people who may be able to benefit from this approach.

The administrative workaround will work as follows:

  • As long as claimants qualify for PUA and file weekly regular unemployment claims, the Employment Department will pay these Oregonians their regular unemployment benefit amount until their claim is adjudicated. If, at the end of the adjudication process, it turns out that they qualified for regular unemployment benefits, nothing will change. They will keep getting regular unemployment benefits as long as they file their weekly claims and are eligible.
  • If it turns out they didn’t qualify for regular unemployment, then the Employment Department will move their claims into the PUA program. If their PUA weekly benefit amount is higher, the Employment Department will also send them the increase for all the past weeks they got the regular UI amount.
  • In the unlikely event this results in overpayment, the person would have to pay it back. 

“Benefits While You Wait” is not available to individuals having their claims reviewed because of past or current school work experience, people who need to prove they are legally authorized to work in the U.S., claimants who reported being out of their labor market at least 3.5 days during a week, and some other situations.

COVID-19 reasons you may be eligible for PUA:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Or, you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are caring for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Your child can’t go to school because their school is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and you need your child to be in school for you to work.
  • A person in your household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility can’t go to a facility for care because the facility is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and you need them to be in facility care for you to work.
  • You can’t get to your workplace because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You can’t get to your workplace because a health care provider has advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • You were scheduled to start a job but you can’t start it or can’t get to it as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You have become the main income earner for your household because the head of your household died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your workplace is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

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Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld to hold weekly media briefing - 07/28/20

WHO:              David Gerstenfeld, Acting Director, Oregon Employment Department

WHEN:            Wed., July 29, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. PT

WHAT:            Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld will hold a video conference media briefing to share updates on unemployment claims processing on Wed., July 29 at 1:00 p.m. PT. Gerstenfeld will provide an update on unemployment claims processing progress.

WHERE:         Via Zoom video conference; Members of the media must RSVP for call information by emailing OED_Communications@oregon.gov by 12:00 p.m. PT on Wed., July 29. Video conference information will be provided to all reporters who RSVP.

OTHER:          The Oregon Employment Department is updating a claims processing progress data dashboard daily. Visit this link for week day updates. A recording of the video conference will be sent out shortly after the media briefing concludes.

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Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

Attached Media Files: 7.29_MEdia_Availability.pdf
Statement from Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld on expiration of federal program providing extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits - 07/24/20

July 24, 2020 (Salem, Ore.) – The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which was created through the passage of the federal CARES Act signed March 27, 2020 and provides an extra $600 per week to Oregonians eligible for unemployment benefits, is set to end on Saturday, July 25. Following is a statement from Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld:

We know that many Oregonians have been counting on the extra $600 per week through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Since the program began on March 29, we have paid out more than $2 billion in FPUC benefits, so this is going to have a significant impact on Oregon families and communities. Just last week, the Department paid the extra $600 to more than 130,000 Oregonians, and that doesn’t include some Oregonians whose claims have not yet been processed.

We want to be sure Oregonians know what to expect, and also want them to know about additional resources available to them to supplement the $600 weekly loss in benefits. Here is what you need to know if you have already been receiving those benefits or are waiting for your benefits to be paid:

  • Every Oregonian who was eligible for regular unemployment benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits between March 29 and July 25 is also eligible for the extra $600 per week during that period.
  • When you file a claim after July 25, you will still get your regular unemployment benefits or PUA benefits for each week you are eligible, and if you file a weekly claim. You will no longer get the extra $600 each week.
  • If you haven’t yet been paid for weeks between March 29 and July 25, you will still get the extra $600 per week for those weeks once your claim is processed, for all weeks you were eligible.

We want every Oregonian to know about all benefits available to them. Unemployed Oregonians may also qualify for help paying for rent, utilities, food, healthcare, and more—especially now that the extra $600 per week is ending. We encourage you to visit 211info.org or call 211 to learn what benefits might be available to you. Free interpretation is provided.

We are grateful to our Congressional delegation for pushing hard to bring this extra relief to so many Oregonians. We know it has helped thousands of Oregon families who haven’t been able to return to work. We are frustrated that getting Oregonians the benefits they deserve has not been easy. We are making progress, and we know there’s a lot more work to do. 

We hope that Congress will quickly pass additional measures to extend the program or come up with a solution that is able to be easily implemented so Oregonians can get more relief—and quickly. If they do, we will see how the legislation will impact Oregonians and share that information with you as quickly as we can.

For more information on unemployment benefits in Oregon, visit unemployment.oregon.gov. Oregonians can also call 211 or go to 211info.org to find additional resources to help cover the cost of housing, health care, food, utility bills and other costs. 

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Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

Attached Media Files: David_statement_on_FPUC_FINAL.pdf
Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld to hold Weekly Media Briefing - 07/21/20

WHO:              David Gerstenfeld, Acting Director, Oregon Employment Department

WHEN:            Wed., July 22, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. PT

WHAT:            Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld will hold a video conference media briefing to share updates on unemployment claims processing on Wed., July 22 at 1:00 p.m. PT. Gerstenfeld will provide an update on unemployment claims processing progress, as well as the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance form for submitting initial and weekly claims.

WHERE:         Via Zoom video conference; Members of the media must RSVP for call information by emailing OED_Communications@oregon.gov by 12:00 p.m. PT on Wed., July 22. Video conference information will be provided to all reporters who RSVP.

OTHER:          The Oregon Employment Department is updating a claims processing progress data dashboard daily. Visit this link for week day updates. A recording of the video conference will be sent out shortly after the media briefing concludes.

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Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services

Attached Media Files: 7.22_Media_availability_FINAL.pdf
New Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Online Form Speeds up Claims for Self-Employed Oregonians - 07/17/20

July 17, 2020 (Salem, Ore.)—Today the Oregon Employment Department, in partnership with Google, launched a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) online form that will make it easier for Oregonians to apply. The form will also allow the more than 100,000 mostly self-employed Oregonians who have applied for PUA to get their weekly benefit payments faster.

“When I took on this role, I made fixing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application issue a top priority because we knew it was impacting our ability to get claims processed quickly,” said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department. “Although the PUA program was set up in just under a month, the temporary solution, a PDF application, was cumbersome and prone to errors. This new form will fix many of the previous issues and help get benefits into the hands of Oregonians more quickly.”

The three major improvements are:

  • Speeding up weekly benefit processing. People seeking PUA benefits are required to submit a weekly certification to get benefits. Automating the weekly certification process will help get them processed faster and more accurately. The previous highly manual process was time- and resource-intensive and meant weeks of delays.
  • Improved submission success. The fully automated form will ensure applications are received with complete information, which will speed up claims processing. The temporary PDF solution meant that some forms were mistakenly being submitted blank.
  • Ensuring all required information is complete prior to submission. The form will give a warning notifying people that the information is required. This change will help us process claims faster and reduce delays in Oregonians receiving benefits due to missing information. Important information, such as the COVID-19 reason that makes an applicant eligible for PUA, is required, but has often been missing or left blank on the PDF forms.

People should resubmit their weekly claims through the new form if they have not already been paid for those weeks, though they do not have to. Doing so will speed up how quickly they get their benefits, and will let claims specialists focus on claims for people who have not yet received their benefits.

“This is an encouraging step forward for Oregonians who’ve been waiting for benefits, as well as for the Department. I am pleased we have made these changes and pledge that we will continue finding better ways to serve you,” Gerstenfeld said.

The Department is committed to ensuring equity for all Oregonians and will be translating the application into 15 different languages. Those translated applications will be available in the next week.  

In addition to the new application, the Department launched a new informational website on July 10, unemployment.oregon.gov, which will also be available in 15 languages in the coming weeks. The application and the website are part of the Department’s efforts to significantly improve the overall customer service experience and improve the speed at which claims can be processed. 

PUA applications, also known as initial claims, will still need to be reviewed by a claims specialist; that will now be easier to do. Claims require review to ensure applicants are eligible under the federal CARES Act and to determine a person’s weekly benefit amount. Weekly PUA claims filed through the new online form will auto-process, sending a person either the $205 per week minimum benefit, or a higher weekly benefit amount--up to a maximum of $648 per week.

To get more than $205 per week, a person must have earned more than $16,480 in the 2019 tax year. They have to provide proof of income for their most recently completed tax year (2019 for most people). A PUA benefits calculator can be found here.

Oregonians who are applying for or receiving benefits can access the new PUA online claim form by going to the Employment Department’s Online Claim System and clicking on the blue “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” button--the same place they went previously to upload their PDF claim forms.

People can continue submitting their initial application and weekly certifications by PDF upload, mail, fax or phone if they wish. These will take longer to process than the online claim form.

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Our Vision: An Oregon where meaningful work enables the state’s diverse people and businesses to realize their full potential, creating prosperity in every community.

 

Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services

Attached Media Files: 7.15_Media_availability_FINAL.pdf