Problems with Unemployment Insurance

April 15, 2020

On March 27, 2020 the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law, increasing unemployment insurance benefit amounts and drastically expanding eligibility for unemployment compensation to self-employed, gig economy, and part-time workers.

Two of the most important provisions we fought to include in the CARES Act put more money in the hands of Oregonians. By providing an additional $600 per week to unemployment compensation recipients and eliminating the "waiting week," Oregonians will receive increased benefit amounts for the entire duration of their unemployment.

The Oregon Employment Department has focused on incorporating the unemployment insurance provisions in the CARES Act that expanded benefits and eligibility, but they have fell short in eliminating the "waiting week" for the first week of unemployment. This is a time that claimants typically do not receive compensation.

That needs to change.

The CARES Act provides for full federal funding through 2020 for the total amount of unemployment compensation paid to individuals for their first week of unemployment. Updating the outdated technology to reflect this change would be a time-consuming, difficult task to complete after years of underfunding and during a time of unprecedented demand. But Oregonians need that week of unemployment pay—period.

This must be solved. Oregonians need relief. The Oregon Employment Department needs to provide this money to people, even retroactively. If we're going to get through this, more needs to be done to help people stay afloat during these difficult times.

I'm going to continue to fight for expanded benefits, more direct assistance payments, and improved relief for small businesses in the next package of COVID-19 legislation. But in the meantime, Oregonians must receive the unemployment compensation that they are entitled.