Receiving unemployment benefits? Job search requirements back in place soon

A rule requiring Oregonians applying for unemployment benefits to submit proof of completing five work-seeking activities every week is about to take effect for the first time since the pandemic began.

Posted: Jul 30, 2021 7:13 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2021 8:33 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- A rule requiring Oregonians applying for unemployment benefits to prove they are searching for a job is about to take effect for the first time since the pandemic began.

Recipients will need to provide proof of five work-seeking activities every week. The week of Aug. 1 is the first week proof will need to be provided for benefits to be approved.

According to the Oregon Employment Department's website, work-seeking activities include updating resumes, going to hiring events, networking, looking at job placement websites, and making direct contact with employers. At least two of an applicant's five submitted activities must involve directly contacting an employer.

"We're talking about something that hasn't been audited in the past year and a half is going to go back to being audited," said Jason Steele, who works in client relations at Express Employment.

Steele said those who work in the state's employment offices have been working remotely up until this point, and now they are more equipped to check for proof of work-seeking activities. He said most people currently collecting unemployment will not see much of a difference.

"If someone's doing the right thing and going out and diligently looking for work, tracking that, talking about the places they're interviewing at, tracking that, they should keep getting their unemployment," Steele said.

Some business owners are hopeful the return of this requirement will bring more applicants to their stores and restaurants.

"I can't add more tables and chairs to the front until I can find some more cooks for the back," said Todd Schuetz, who owns Cafe 440.

He said before the pandemic, he employed 30 people. Now, he employs 12.

"I've had to take away three days of service so I'm only open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday," Schuetz said.

Roughly 156,000 people received benefits during the past four weeks, according to OED. Some residents think the return of this requirement will encourage many of those people to find work.

"There's jobs out there," said Richard Farr, who lives in Eugene. "There was the entire time the COVID thing was going on. I think if somebody wants to get employed, especially in the Eugene area, you can find a job."

KEZI also spoke with Robert Perkins, who lives in Harrisburg.

"COVID is still out there, but I feel it's winding down and it's time for everybody to get back to work," Perkins said.

Other residents say more communication between the unemployed and the employment department will help.

"I don't know if that's a good way to do it or not, but I do know there needs to be more communication because people are out there having a tough time," said Kevin Leonard, who lives in Eugene.

Additionally, several temporary federal programs including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation are set to expire on Sept. 4. These programs expand eligibility to several additional groups of workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for OED wrote in part, "We know many people are concerned about temporary federal benefit programs expiring Sept. 4. These benefits are a critical lifeline that helps people meet basic needs such as putting a roof over their heads, buying food and paying utilities. And while the pandemic is still a very serious threat to people’s health and economic well being, job-prospects and the employment market are vastly different now than they were when the pandemic began."

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