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Oregon sets sessions on rules change in jobless benefits

State officials have scheduled six sessions, starting Thursday, Oct. 14, for the public and businesses to weigh in on a rule allowing workers to keep some unemployment benefits even if they have barriers to their returning to work.

The temporary rule would let some workers continue to receive benefits despite their limited availability for work. Among the covered situations are caring for a sick family member and the lack of child care.

Under the rule, workers would have to seek alternate work if they are available for at least one shift per day and 40 hours per week.

"This may require people to seek a different type of job, but one they have the skills and experience to do," the Oregon Employment Department said in its announcement of the webinars.

The temporary rule follows after changes expired Sept. 26 to the longstanding requirements for people to be able to work and available to work. Those requirements were reinstated Sept. 26, 90 days after the end of an emergency declaration that suspended them during the coronavirus pandemic.

The department will conduct all six webinars by registration at unemployment.oregon.gov/webinars. Sessions will run 90 minutes but may end earlier if there are no further comments.

Worker-focused sessions are planned at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14; noon Tuesday, Oct. 26; and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9.

Employer-focused sessions are planned at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20; noon Wednesday, Nov. 3; and 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Simultaneous translation will be offered in Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian and Cantonese.

In addition to helping some workers offset part of their lost income with unemployment benefits, an agency statement said, the rule would help communities where a large number of people have faced restricted work schedules because of the pandemic. Among them are people whose underlying health conditions may require them to limit their exposure to potential carriers of the COVID-19 virus.

Proposed legislation pending in Congress, sponsored by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and others, would require states to allow more flexibility in letting some workers retain a portion of unemployment benefits if they are otherwise able to obtain alternate work.