How Does the System Work?

We understand this is an overwhelming and stressful time. The Employment Department is committed to helping as many people, as much as possible, as quickly as possible. As we are working to process record numbers of applications for benefits, we are also making changes to our systems to support so many people seeking benefits, and implementing new federal laws and state level policy changes, to make it easier for us to get benefits to people.

Some people are asking about waiving the “waiting week” normally associated with unemployment insurance benefits. With all of the work we are doing, we are focusing on what can provide the most help, to the most people, in the shortest amount of time. Providing people with an extra $600 per week of benefits, making benefits available to people under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program who normally would not be able to get unemployment insurance benefits, extending the number of weeks of benefits available to people, and other changes.

We are looking at how we can remove the waiting week, but will have to wait until we have implemented these other programs to do so. We know that making this change will take a lot of time, and do not want to delay making all of the other benefit programs available to Oregonians. We also know that because of the age of our IT systems and the way they are connected, there is a real risk of accidentally stopping or delaying benefits to people as we remove the waiting week.

We understand the crucial need for unemployment benefits, and our staff our processing claims at a record rate trying to help their fellow Oregonians. Prior to COVID-19, the general timeframe from an initial claim to first payment was about three weeks. For most claims, the Employment Department is still in that three week timeframe from initial claim to first payment.

Each person’s unemployment situation is unique. Some require more follow-up information from either you or your employer, and that affects processing time. More complex claims could take longer to process. If you have a confirmation number from your initial claim, please continue to make weekly claims online.

In non-pandemic times, most workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own can receive unemployment insurance benefits for up to 26 weeks while they are actively seeking work with employers, and are available and able to accept work if a job is offered to them. New provisions under the federal CARES Act provide additional pandemic unemployment benefits for those eligible for benefits during the weeks starting March 29, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020. More information about these benefits are available on our CARES Act page.


Under the Employment Department’s temporary rules, effective March 8, 2020, workers in temporary layoff situations related to COVID-19 can receive unemployment benefits without actively seeking work with other employers. They need to stay actively engaged with their current employer, and return to work when called back as the employer resumes operations.

In addition, the Employment Department’s temporary rules will still consider workers as available and able to accept work if they are under quarantine as directed by a health care or government official. Affected workers will also be considered available and able to accept work if they are home caring for children due to COVID-19 school closures and do not have child care.


Regular unemployment benefits are generally 1.25 percent of a worker’s earnings over a 12-month period. For example, a worker who earned $12.50 per hour, working 40 hours per week for the past year would generally receive $325 per week in unemployment benefits. In 2020, regular unemployment benefit payments range from a minimum amount of $151 per week to a maximum amount of $648 per week. In addition, pandemic unemployment benefits are available for those eligible for benefits during the weeks starting March 29, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020. More information about these benefits are available on our CARES Act page.


An employee not able to work due to COVID-19 reasons will still be considered able and available to work, and not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if they are required to stay at home by government order.


An employer may be deemed as providing essential work and potentially unable to operate at full capacity for COVID-19 reasons. These possibilities are addressed in the new temporary rules enacted by the Employment Department.


Oregon’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund currently has more than $5 billion, making us one of the most securely funded states. Oregon’s fund adequacy ratio, a measure of UI trust fund health, is similar now as it was at the onset of the Great Recession. During that economic downturn, Oregon’s trust fund remained solvent. States can secure an interest–free loan from the federal government if state resources become insufficient to pay benefits.


Staffing for the UI program is primarily funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor using a formula to determine how much administrative funding each state receives. This federal funding does not fully fund the operation of unemployment insurance programs across the nation. Oregon is funded at approximately 71 percent of our projected need.


Oregon businesses pay through a payroll tax. The money is deposited in a trust fund jointly held by the state and the federal government. The monies in the fund can only be spent on paying unemployment benefits.


Unemployment Insurance tax rates are set annually; the next determination occurs in November of this year for calendar year 2021. Oregon Unemployment Insurance tax rates are set at one of eight rates (or schedules) based on the level of trust fund monies so that the fund remains solvent and can continue to pay benefits to those unemployed through no fault of their own. This tax structure has been in place for decades, and has served Oregon workers, businesses, and communities well in each economic circumstance since then by providing both benefits and stability.


   WorkSource Oregon Resource Guide

 Situation in the U.S. and Globally

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leads the U.S. response. The World Health Organization (WHO) guides the global response.

 Information from CDC   Information from WHO

For general information on COVID-19 in Oregon, call 211. If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

 Contact Us

 Resources for the Community

Social Distancing


Spread facts, not fear.

Oregon is seeing an increase in incidents of discrimination and harassment related to the COVID-19 virus. It is important that all people, businesses, and other organizations act on facts, not bias or xenophobia. Health officials confirm there are no links between COVID-19 infection and a person’s race, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability, or national origin. COVID-19 can infect anyone who is exposed to it, and anyone can spread COVID-19. 


In consideration of staffing challenges and health concerns due to COVID-19, Governor Kate Brown announced a statewide closure of Oregon K-12 schools from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, April 28.

OHA knows we are asking a lot of Oregonians in order to protect those who are particularly vulnerable to this virus, and there is a lot of fear and anxiety in our communities. Educators are the heart of our schools, which in turn are the heart of our communities. In the wake of COVID-19’s arrival in Oregon, our schools are facing operational and business challenges.

We stand with the governor and our education partners as they make difficult decisions in response to these operational challenges in their school communities.

Resources from Oregon Department of Education

Child Care Resources from Early Learning Division

In partnership with OHA, the Early Learning Division (ELD) has created new tools for addressing concerns in child care around COVID-19.

Resources from Oregon Higher Education

Updated on May 20th, 2020 01:40PM