Nearly 250,000 Oregonians who have received unemployment benefits this year have another payment on the way and another 170,000 will see an additional benefit in the coming weeks. The Oregon Employment Department announced Nov. 23 that it had begun issuing "waiting week" payments for Oregonians who received "regular" unemployment insurance benefits since the start of the pandemic.
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When someone submits a claim for unemployment benefits in Oregon, they typically have to wait one week before they start receiving unemployment funds. For those who found themselves out of work unexpectedly and without a savings cushion, that "waiting week" can mean they fall behind in making payments for rent, utilities and other necessities. Under the new pandemic-era Oregon Employment Department guidelines, claimants can now get benefits for the week they waited—meaning if someone filed a claim on March 8, 2020 or after under regular unemployment insurance, they get that payment, equal to the amount of their other regular weekly payments. People who are receiving—or received—unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or the Disaster Unemployment Assistance programs will not receive a new waiting week payment since those programs already paid claimants during their first week.
OED issued 246,300 payments on Nov. 23, and said those people should receive their waiting week benefit within three business days. Payments owed to another 170,000 people will have to be manually processed and thus will take longer to disburse.
"The Department estimates that while most will people will receive their waiting week benefit by the end of December, it may take until the end of January for claimants receiving Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation (PEUC), Extended Benefits (EB), or benefits through Workshare to receive their waiting week payment," according to an OED press release. "Eligible claimants whose waiting week falls between March 29, 2020 and July 25, 2020 also will receive the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment in addition to their weekly benefit amount."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D), who represents Oregon in Washington, D.C., said he his monitoring the waiting-week change:
"I'll keep pressing the department to ensure it distributes every eligible waiting week check in a timely manner and resolves claims stuck in adjudication for thousands of Oregonians so they too can get the benefits they are entitled to. And I will continue pushing my legislation to extend into 2021 my Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed and gig workers facing the ongoing economic fallout from this public health crisis."
Starting next year, waiting weeks will once again be part of the OED program. The waiting week has been waived for regular UI initial claims filed from March 8 through Jan. 2, 2021.
People can check on the status of their claim by visiting the Online Claim System at unemployment.oregon.gov.