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MailTribune.com
  • Underemployed face complex rules for benefits

    Businesses must sign up for program before employees can get help
  • For those who have had hours cut or lost their jobs, figuring out the rules to get unemployment insurance can be a little daunting.
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  • For those who have had hours cut or lost their jobs, figuring out the rules to get unemployment insurance can be a little daunting.
    Generally, a worker should visit the local Oregon Employment Department office as quickly as possible. At the same time workers need to find out what programs their employers may have to help them through their period of unemployment.
    The situation gets a little trickier as employers cut back on hours.
    "This is something that is becoming increasingly popular — something that is used more and more," said Craig Spivey, a spokesman for the employment department and WorkSource Oregon, a network of public and private partners working together for businesses and workers.
    Generally, to receive unemployment insurance, an employee has to clear a "waiting week." But Spivey said that employees who expect to lose a certain amount of hours over an extended period of time should check with the local employment office.
    He said more employers also are taking advantage of a Work Share Program offered by the state that compensates employees who have seen a 20 to 40 percent reduction in hours.
    "Statewide, our usage of Work Share has increased dramatically over the past year," he said. In January 2008, 1,492 workers had signed up, but by December 2008, 5,500 were getting the supplemental unemployment benefit in a program many companies refer to as work furlough.
    The workers receive a percentage of their benefits based on how many hours their work week has been reduced.
    The catch with this program is that employers have to sign up for it before their workers can take advantage of it. Businesses also could be subject to higher rates for unemployment as well, particularly if they have a lot of workers, which would have to be factored in their decision to join the program.
    Spivey said the upside to the program is that businesses can retain qualified employees until the economy turns around.
    The main thing that workers should do once they are laid off is to contact the employment office as soon as possible, preferably online.
    The second thing to do is to take a program with the employment department known as "iMatchSkills." The software takes all of your jobs and skill and matches them to various jobs being offered.
    To avoid getting discouraged, Spivey recommends someone who is unemployed treat the situation like any other job. Get up early, develop a routine and do a thorough job search every day.
    "Your full-time job is looking for work," he said. "It helps with the psyche."
    For those who have lost hours out of their work week, it could be a bit more difficult to find a way to make up the difference in their pocketbooks. They may have to give up cable TV, a cell phone or something else they've come to take for granted.
    "They will have to check to see how to fill that in," he said. "People are going to have to get creative."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
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