October 23, 2020 (Salem, OR)—Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Employment Department has worked to find the best ways to meet the dire needs of Oregon workers and businesses.
In March, the Department adopted several temporary rules to help workers and businesses and to support public health measures that can lessen the pandemic's impact. These rules did not change any existing Oregon unemployment insurance statutes.
Oregon law allows temporary rules to be in effect for six months, but unfortunately, the pandemic is still with us, and the impacts on Oregon businesses and workers remain. Because of this, we proposed adopting permanent rules that allows the Department to more quickly adjust the usual eligibility requirements. The rules we proposed only allows this during a declared public health emergency or declared emergency.
The Department held a public hearing to receive input on the rules, and received oral and written testimony from individuals representing businesses or themselves. Some concerns were raised that these rules could impact employer obligations for unemployment insurance taxes and could encourage people to avoid working.
We hear and understand those concerns. We looked at the impact our rules and programs would have on individuals, businesses, and communities throughout Oregon and decided to proceed with making the rules permanent. This allows us to make temporary changes to regular eligibility requirements during declared emergencies. It does not let us change statutory requirements on who gets benefits and who does not.
Effective Oct. 25, we will use these new rules to continue the temporary benefit eligibility adjustments made in our prior temporary rules. That means there will not be any immediate change from what has been in place since early in the pandemic. Further, many of the benefits being paid to Oregonians as a result of continuing these rules will not have any impact on Oregon unemployment insurance tax rates.
We continue to closely watch the course of the pandemic and its impact on Oregon's economy. As the needs of businesses, communities, and workers change, we will evaluate when to adjust these temporary measures to better suit evolving conditions. And, of course, once the declared emergency ends, any temporary adjustments made will also end.
Thank you to those who took time to tell us what you thought of the proposed rules and to share your concerns and suggestions. The situations and needs of individual businesses and workers throughout Oregon vary widely. Making unemployment benefits meet all of those varied needs in the best way possible is a challenge, but the thoughtful feedback of those we serve helps us better meet those diverse needs.
An email notification was sent out via the GovDelivery Listserv at the beginning of September when the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was filed with the Secretary of State's Office to over 5,000 people. All 90 Oregon Legislators also received an email notice informing them of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. No comments have been received by the Legislators. The public Comment period ended at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. Here is a copy of the Hearings Report.
On October 16, 2020, the Department held a public hearing using the Zoom platform. We had several people comment during the hearing (see hearing report attached) and six public comments were received through the OED_Rules@oregon.gov email account (see attached). Of the comments we received, three comments were voicing opposition to the permanent rules due to concerns regarding the potential impact to small businesses. Another concern that was voice during the hearing was the potential for increased cost to companies and the decreased applicant pools because of more relaxed rules.
After evaluation of the comments received during the public comment period, the department has decided to proceed with filing the rule as a permanent rule. Here is a copy of the filed Permanent Rule for OAR 471-030-0071.
Proposed Rule Notice
The Employment Department has created Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 471-030-0071. This rule gives the Department the authority to make changes to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program to respond to a state of emergency or public health emergency declared by the Governor.
This rule allows us to change the eligibility requirements to receive unemployment insurance benefits to help Oregonians during a declared emergency. Notices with clearer guidance will be given to workers, businesses, and others regarding requirement changes.
This rule change could expand the availability of benefits to people impacted by the declared state of emergency or public health emergency.
With UI benefits being more widely available under this rule, some people who would have had to work because of financial responsibilities can instead follow state security or public health recommendations. It also may help provide economic stability to local communities if there is a large number of people who no longer are working or receiving pay due to the impact of such declared state of emergency or public health emergency.
The adoption of this rule may have a fiscal and economic impact to employers who pay into the trust fund and reimbursing employers. This may include small businesses, state agencies, and units of local government.
Click here for a copy of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Hearing for the rule including the Statement of Need and Fiscal Impact and proposed rule language.
The Proposed Rulemaking Hearing for this change will occur on Friday, October 16, 2020 at the Oregon Employment Department from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Interested parties will have the option to attend the meeting virtually as it will be broadcast using the Zoom platform. Registration instructions will be found on our social media pages.
Anyone interested in providing the Department feedback on the rule is welcome to attend the virtual public hearing. If you can't attend the hearing virtually but want to provide comments on the rule, conference line information will be provided closer to the public hearing date.
Written comments may also be submitted by e-mail to OED_Rules@oregon.gov no later than Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. All comments received will be reviewed and considered before the department proceeds with the permanent rulemaking.