PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 155,000 Oregonians work in restaurants and bars. Many of them – perhaps most – lost their jobs Monday when Gov. Kate Brown ordered all eating and drinking establishments shut down, except for takeout and delivery service.
The governor wants to reduce the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has already infected at least 65 Oregonians. The economic fallout will be severe, though, and restaurants are just the beginning.
Powell’s Books laid off hundreds of employees this week after shutting its five landmark stores in the Portland area and warned its workers Monday it will be “several months” before normal operations resume. Apple, Nike and many other retailers have also closed their stores.
With the NBA closed down and the concert schedule in tatters, attendants, custodians and others at the Moda Center are out of work indefinitely. Museums, amusement parks, movie theaters and many other attractions are also shuttered and their employees are out of work.
The surge in layoffs triggered a sudden rise in jobless claims, overwhelming the state’s website for filing unemployment insurance claims. The site was intermittently offline Monday and Tuesday.
Oregon’s jobless rate was at an all-time low, 3.3%, before the coronavirus outbreak. Expect a massive spike in the coming weeks but no one knows yet just how many will lose their jobs. It depends in how widespread the outbreak becomes and how long it lasts.
The Oregon Employment Department has a website with answers to many questions – though some questions don’t have answers yet.
Here is some initial guidance:
Is anybody hiring?
In fact, yes.
Amazon, Fred Meyer and Safeway-Albertsons are all struggling to keep up with customer demand and want nearly as many workers as they can hire. Amazon says it will hire up to 100,000 and is offering a temporary, $2 hourly raise.
Fred Meyer has several pages of Oregon job openings on its website for all manner of positions. Safeway and Albertsons (they’re the same company operating under different names) says it wants to hire 1,000 employees immediately and has scores of listings online, from meat cutter to cake decorator.
Where do I file for benefits?
Unemployment insurance is available for most workers who lose their jobs “through no fault of their own.” File online and do it as soon as possible – it takes a week for benefits to kick in and three weeks before payments start.
Do I need to seek a new job if my layoff is temporary?
The Employment Department says that if an employer expects a layoff will last for four weeks or less workers do not need to seek a new job to receive unemployment benefits so long as they’re in contact with their employer and available to return to work when called.
What if I’m sick or quarantined, or want to stay away from work so I’m not exposed to the virus?
Such people are not usually eligible for benefits under current law – though state and federal authorities are considering changes. However, the Employment Department encourages people staying away from work to avoid exposure to file a claim anyway. The department says it will gather information to see if any benefits apply.
If I’m getting paid during the layoff, or using vacation pay, can I receive benefits?
If I contract COVID-19 (the disease associated with the coronavirus) on the job, am I eligible for benefits?
In that case, file a workers’ compensation claim.
If a doctor or government authorities order me to stay home, can I collect unemployment benefits.
How much do unemployment benefits pay?
The state has an online calculator for making an estimate.
How long do the benefits last?
Generally speaking, 26 weeks.
I have more questions! Who do I ask?
Write to the Employment Department: OED_COVID19_Info@oregon.gov.
This article was originally published by The Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving heath issue.