Can You Work 20 Hours a Week When Collecting Unemployment in Oregon?

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In Oregon, workers who are out of a job through no fault of their own can apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Oregon rules are slightly different than those in other states, and anyone considering applying should be sure to read up on them. Oregon's unemployment insurance program is run by the Oregon Employment Department. Unemployment programs across the country have been impacted by federal pandemic unemployment laws, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act and subsequent legislation. Both the regular Oregon unemployment insurance program and also the federal pandemic program permit an individual to work part time while receiving benefits.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

An individual receiving Oregon unemployment benefits may continue to receive them even if they work part time. They will be able to get their full benefit if they earn no more than $300 a week, earn no more than their UI benefit amount, and work no more than 39 hours a week. Federal pandemic unemployment laws also provide supplemental benefits to individuals getting Oregon UI benefits.

Oregon Unemployment Laws

Oregon laws about unemployment insurance (UI) eligibility are very much like laws in other states. In order to qualify, employees must be out of work due to no fault of their own, have earned a specified minimum amount of income in the recent past (the base period) and be able to work, available to work, and aggressively looking for work.

In Oregon, the base period is defined as the first four of the five calendar quarters before the claim was filed. Oregon workers who qualify for unemployment insurance coverage receive a weekly amount of 1.25 percent of the total wages in the base period. The weekly minimum is $151 and the maximum of $648. Generally, Oregon state unemployment benefit payments last up to 26 weeks.

Working While Getting Oregon UI

Some states do not allow workers who take a part-time job to continue to receive unemployment benefits. But Oregon does not exclude claimants who have found part-time employment – even those working 20 hours a week – as long as they meet the other eligibility requirements. However, in some cases the benefit amount may be reduced or eliminated.

In the past, Oregon workers could not get full unemployment benefits if their weekly wages from part-time work were greater than one-third of their benefit amount. Any wages above that amount would reduce the benefit amount dollar-for-dollar. But Oregon law has been amended to allow more part-time workers to be eligible for UI benefits. Oregon changed this UI law effective September 6, 2020, and the modifications are set to last through January 1, 2022​. The law allows an unemployed worker to earn up to $300 a week without having their benefits reduced as long as they do not earn more than their weekly benefit amount or work more than 39 hours a week.

An individual who works part time and earns an amount over $300 will get a partial unemployment benefit. Their regular benefit will be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of weekly earnings over $300. In practice, the system works this way:

  • If an individual qualifies for a weekly UI benefit of $250, and they earn $251 a week by working 20 hours, they will get no benefits because their earnings exceed their benefit.
  • If the benefit is $251, and the worker earns $250 by working 20 hours, they will get a full benefit because the wages are less than the benefit amount and do not exceed the cap of $300.
  • If the benefit is $500, and the worker earns $300 by working 20 hours, they can keep both because the earnings are less than the benefit and do not exceed the cap of $300.
  • If the benefit is $500, and the worker earns $350 by working 20 hours, the benefit is reduced by $50 because the law sets the earnings cap at $300, and the earnings exceed it by $50.

Federal Government Pandemic Program

Oregonians out of work may also benefit from the federal pandemic unemployment benefit program. During the shut-down for COVID-19, many businesses closed and many people were out of work. The government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help those workers. The laws expand and supplement Oregon unemployment benefits.

The initial CARES Act was passed in March, 2020. It provided a $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit. This payment was in addition to any state-provided unemployment benefits received. The law also expanded unemployment benefit eligibility to include self-employed workers, part-time workers and gig workers who find themselves out of work or whose hours were cut back because of the pandemic.

The program ran through July 31, 2020. However, the law was amended in December, 2020, by the Continued Assistance Act to provide a $300 per week FPUC benefit in addition to state-provided benefits starting on December 26, 2020, and extending through March 14, 2021. Under Biden's American Rescue Plan Act, the $300 supplement program was further extended to September 6, 2021.

The supplemental benefit is available to anyone receiving unemployment assistance benefits in any state, including Oregon. That means that someone who is getting Oregon UI benefits and working part time will be given an extra $300 a week on top of any state benefits.

Federal Aid and UI Requirements

Generally, in order to be eligible for Oregon state UI benefits, workers must show that:

  • They are unemployed through no fault or misdeeds of their own.
  • They have worked 500 hours or earned certain minimum income ($1,000 gross earnings) during the base period established by Oregon law.
  • They are able to work, available to work, and actively seeking employment.

Two of these requirements have been modified by the federal programs: the rules about fault and the rules about returning to work. While Oregon law provides that the employee must have been laid off through no fault of their own, the CARES Act added quite a few pandemic-related reasons a worker might have to leave their job. These include inability to work because they or a family member have COVID; they have been exposed to COVID; they must care for a child because schools were closed due to COVID; or their workplace was shut down because of the virus.

Likewise, the obligation to be ready and willing to return to work and to actively seek a new job has been modified. Federal pandemic unemployment, under the CARES Act and subsequent legislation, does away with the requirement that the worker be ready and able to work and actively be seeking work in several pandemic-related circumstances. For example, if the employee is ill from COVID-19, caring for someone who has COVID-19 or taking care of minor children because schools are closed, they are eligible for continued benefits without seeking other employment.

Filing for UI in Oregon

There is no separate application for the federal pandemic benefit. Anyone out of work in Oregon should consider filing for unemployment in the state. A good place to start is to read the Unemployment Insurance Claimant Handbook published by the Employment Department of the state. It walks a claimant through the process from determining whether they are eligible to providing instructions on filling out the forms.

The online application system is the easiest way to proceed in Oregon. It allows an individual to file both for regular state unemployment and pandemic-based unemployment claims. Phoning in a claim is also possible, but there may be delays given the number of applicants.