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As pandemic recedes, Oregon unemployment requirements set to return

Oregonians collecting regular unemployment benefits will soon be required to actively search for work in order to keep those benefits. The acting director of the Oregon Employment Department, David Gerstenfeld, announced the policy shift Wednesday.

In normal times, Oregonians receiving unemployment benefits must attest they are able, available and actively seeking work. The pandemic upended that. With businesses shuttered, changes at the federal and state level allowed the Employment Department to pause or modify such requirements.

Now, as vaccinations increase, the economy reopens, and employers report difficulty finding workers, the agency said it was time to begin rolling back some changes.

“It’s important that everyone receiving regular UI benefits knows that some requirements were paused or modified during the crisis, like actively looking for work, being available for work, and registering for work in our iMatchSkills system,” Gerstenfeld said. “These requirements are starting back up again, and people will need to meet these requirements by designated dates in order to be eligible to continue receiving benefits.”

The agency said it would share more information on its website Friday.

The work search requirement will not kick in immediately.

Gerstenfeld said the return to more normal benefit requirements will occur in phases. The first step will be requiring people to register with the agency’s job-matching program, iMatchSkills.

Gerstenfeld said the next phase will involve one-on-one discussions between job seekers and staff from local WorkSource programs. “And also ensuring that the person is available, able and actively seeking work under the more typical, non-pandemic benefit requirements,” he added.

Gerstenfeld acknowledged that many people still face barriers to work, including health concerns and lack of child care.

He said the agency has no plans to end federal benefit programs early.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kate Davidson