Oregonians receiving regular unemployment benefits must start looking for jobs by July 31 to keep receiving their weekly payments, the state said Monday, reinstating a requirement that had been on hold during the pandemic.
With Oregon employers facing a labor shortage, the state announced that benefits recipients soon would have to show that they’re actively seeking work to keep getting their money.
That was standard practice before 2020, but Congress allowed the state to waive that requirement early in the pandemic — a period when many employers shut down altogether and many workers had family responsibilities keeping them home or were fearful of going back to work and being exposed to the virus.
On Monday, the Oregon Employment Department laid out the timetable for people to resume their work search:
- An initial batch of 35,000 workers are receiving notices indicating they must register with the state’s iMatchSkills program, which matches their qualifications with current job openings on file with the state. The employment department says 220,000 claimants will have to register, so the state is breaking that total into groups and phasing in the registration period over five weeks.
- On July 6, the employment department says its WorkSource offices will reopen to help workers find a job.
- By July 31, people receiving regular jobless benefits must demonstrate they’re looking for work in each week they claim benefits.
- Self-employed workers and contractors receiving benefits through the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program don’t have to register yet, and there’s no deadline for them to start their work search. The state says it will set a timeline for them soon.
Oregon has paid $9.1 billion in jobless benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state in March 2020. It paid $118 million in one week this month to 142,000 Oregonians.
The ongoing pandemic has complicated the return to work for many people because COVID-19 continues to spread and because many schools are either closed or operating at severely reduced hours. With vaccination rates climbing, though, more businesses are open and many are struggling to find workers.
Employers have complained for months that some prospective hires are choosing to stay home and collect unemployment benefits — which include a $300 weekly federal bonus, through Labor Day — rather that look for work. Economists say other factors may be playing a larger role in the labor shortage, including intense competition for workers in the service sector.
That’s a low-wage economic sector, so some employers are raising their starting wages or offering bonuses to lure workers.