PORTLAND, Ore. — The more than $2 trillion relief package expanded unemployment insurance benefits and loans for small businesses. However, KGW is still hearing from people who are having trouble applying because the need is so high.
The Oregon Employment Department is seeing an unprecedented number of people filing for unemployment insurance benefits. The week of March 15, 76,500 claims were filed. That is up from 4,900 claims filed the week before and the surge of people applying has made it difficult for many to file.
Several people reached out to KGW to say they cannot get through to anyone over the phone when they call, while others are having trouble submitting claims online.
It seems to be a different story though for people applying for small business loans under the $2 trillion dollar relief package. Larry Mock is a residential construction remodeler. He said he applied for a loan on Monday through the United States Small Business Administration.
“When I got on there it was pretty simple. I just started answering questions and before I knew it, I think I spent 15 minutes on the application and submitted it and it was, that's the first actual government form I've been able to fill out on my own,” Mock said.
Good news for small businesses, the loans could be forgiven if the money is used for designated operating expenses and to keep people employed.
“That was the concern I had. I didn't want to get a loan that I had to pay back, that doesn't help me that much,” Mock explained. “It helps, but sooner or later you have to pay it back and so you've got to keep business going that way. In this situation, where it's more like a grant, it will definitely help us keep going.”
The Oregon Employment Department said it is doing everything it can to help make applying for unemployment insurance benefits easier. However, it was not set up to handle this many people applying at once.
The department has since added more people to take phone calls and if you check the website, there is now a whole section devoted to COVID-19-related layoffs and closures.
There you will find videos with step-by-step directions to walk you through filing a claim and how to answer specific questions.
If you already filed, but think your benefits will be different because of the relief package, the employment department said you do not need to refile. It will process the claim you already filed and will go back and send additional payments for any earlier weeks where federal benefits would have applied.