Malheur County workers who have been automatically getting unemployment benefits soon will have to show they are actively looking for work to continue getting the assistance.

The change goes into effect the week of July 25 as the state returns to pre-pandemic requirements.

The Oregon Employment Department also announced the state will continue supplemental federal benefits of $300 per week through September. 

Starting last March, Oregon joined other states in suspending certain requirements that unemployed workers had to meet to be eligible for regular benefits. 

Under standard rules, Oregonians seeking benefits had to show that they were able to work, available and actively looking for a job for each week they were seeking benefits. The Employment Department plans to reinstate these requirements in phases over the next two months as vaccination rates increase and Covid cases decrease. 

The first step requires workers to register for the state’s online job matching system, iMatchSkills, and create a Job Seeker profile. With the state anticipating nearly 220,000 claimants, registration deadlines will be staggered over the next five weeks.

Each unemployed worker getting benefits will get a letter from the state listing the deadline to register, with the first group's deadline Saturday, June 19. 

Additionally, Oregonians will be required to report work-seeking activities on their weekly claims starting the week of Sunday, July 25. That includes directly contacting potential employers, attending job placement meetings, networking and updating resumes. Workers must complete at least five work seeking activities per week.  

The WorkSource Ontario office will reopen July 6 for appointments to help connect workers with businesses and meet these requirements. 

Malheur County has the second-lowest unemployment rate in Oregon at 4.6% - totaling 615 people. Part-time employees receiving unemployment benefits also must now show that they are searching for more work. 

The state’s decision to continue the added federal unemployment benefit comes as 23 states have announced that they will opt out of the benefits in June. Some states plan to instead give bonuses for those returning to work. 

“The pandemic-related federal benefit programs have created a lifeline for people whose livelihoods were impacted by Covid-19 and we don’t want those that need those valuable benefits to lose access to them before those programs end,” said David Gerstenfeld, Employment Department director, at a recent briefing. “While we are closely watching the changing economic conditions, we do not currently have any plans to end the federal benefit programs early.”

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected]

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