SALEM, Ore. — After weeks of struggling under an overwhelming number of unemployment claims, the Oregon Employment Department (OED) says that it’s ready to extend unemployment benefits to the self-employed and gig workers that are not usually covered by state insurance, a provision of the federal CARES Act.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was designed to extend benefits to many who wouldn’t ordinarily qualify for benefits — the self-employed, independent contractors, agricultural workers, the under-employed, and gig workers.

“To be eligible, you must be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable and unavailable for work due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” OED said.

Situations covered by the PUA program include those who are caring or a household member diagnosed with COVID-19, those who have been diagnosed are are seeking diagnosis for COVID-19, those who are unable to reach their place of employment due to quarantine, primary caregivers for a child or someone unable to attend school or another facility closed by the public health emergency, those who were scheduled to start a new job but the business was closed, and those who owned or worked for a business closed by the pandemic.

“Federal law provides that PUA benefits are retroactive to the first week a worker was impacted by a qualifying COVID-19 reason, potentially from the week starting February 2, 2020 through the week ending December 26, 2020,” OED said. “The PUA process can take as little as one week or several weeks, depending on the claim complexity.”

The state agency says that it has recruited and trained staff to process these new types of claims. Much of the delay has hinged on programming changes to the state’s antiquated computer system.

To apply for PUA benefits, you can visit the Employment Department’s CARES Act section on its web page. Applications and weekly claim reports can be submitted by email, mailed to OED at P.O. Box 14165, Salem, OR 97311, or faxed to 503-371-2893.

See below for more information on who is eligible for the PUA program.


Eligibility

Oregonians who are eligible for this program include individuals who do not qualify for or cannot collect benefits on a regular unemployment insurance claim. This includes Oregonians who:

  • are self-employed and not subject to unemployment insurance tax;
  • perform work as an independent contractor;
  • perform work not subject to unemployment insurance tax, such as agricultural workers;
  • did not earn enough in wages or work enough hours to qualify for regular unemployment benefits;
  • exhausted regular unemployment benefits, and are not eligible for another extension.

In addition, to be eligible, you must be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable and unavailable for work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Covered situations include individuals who:

  • are directly caring for a member of the household diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are seeking a medical diagnosis for COVID-19;
  • are unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;
  • are primary caregivers for a child or person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility closed due to COVID-19, and that attendance is required for their work;
  • were scheduled to start a new job and were unable to because the business closed as a direct result of COVID-19 public health emergency; or
  • owned or worked for a business that closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal law provides that PUA benefits are retroactive to the first week a worker was impacted by a qualifying COVID-19 reason, potentially from the week starting February 2, 2020 through the week ending December 26, 2020. The PUA process can take as little as one week or several weeks, depending on the claim complexity.

*By Jamie Parfitt via KDRV.com*