The unemployment benefits program in Oregon includes provisions allowing you to work part-time and still be eligible to claim benefits. How long you can work and remain eligible depends on your wages as well as your weekly benefit amount. State laws try to strike a balance between encouraging you to seek work and reserving benefits for those who need them the most.
Oregon state laws allow you to work and receive unemployment benefits as long as your wages are not greater than your benefits. If your wages are less than your benefits, the state will pay your benefits, but possibly at a reduced rate. You can earn a third of your weekly benefit amount in wages with no reduction. After that, the state takes a dollar out of your benefits for every dollar you earn. If your benefit rate is $270 a week, for example, you can earn $90 without any reduction in your benefits. If you earn $150, you would lose $60 of your benefits and would receive a check for $210.
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If your weekly unemployment benefit rate is relatively low, Oregon uses a different formula to determine whether to reduce your benefits. The threshold is 10 times the state minimum wage if that number is greater than one third of your weekly benefits. In 2011, for example, 10 times the state minimum wage is $85. If $85 is more than a third of your weekly benefits — meaning you receive less than $255 a week in benefits — then $85 in earnings is the starting point for your benefits reduction. If your benefit rate is $250, and you earn $100 one week, the state would take $15 out of your benefits and send you $235.
Given the formula Oregon uses to calculate your unemployment benefits reduction, you might well be able to work 20 hours per week and still receive benefits. But that would depend on your hourly wage. If you earn $10 an hour, or $200 total, that would reduce your benefits by a significant amount but would probably not eliminate them altogether. If your benefit rate is $300, for example, you would lose $100 in the reduction. But if you earn $20 an hour, for $400 total, you would not be able to receive any benefits unless your weekly rate is more than $300.
Working 20 hours a week does not absolve you of the requirement to constantly search for job opportunities that would pay more than your weekly benefits and thus allow you to stop claiming benefits. Failure to conduct a comprehensive job search could make you ineligible to receive benefits, according to the laws that govern Oregon's unemployment insurance program. Even when working 20 hours a week, you face the same job-search requirements as those who are altogether unemployed.