State program to help Oregon business owners avoid layoffs

Nov 18 2020, 10:49 am

Things are going to be a bit different in Oregon for a little while as of Wednesday. Gyms and fitness centres are closing, indoor dining at bars and restaurants are out, and grocery stores, pharmacies, and other stores are limited to 75% capacity, among other things.

With a state-wide two-week freeze employing several new COVID-19 restrictions that are kicking off in Oregon this week, many are probably wondering how they’ll cope with the new regulations. The freeze — lasting four weeks in Portland — has also garnered questions about supporting local businesses, how it will affect business owners, employees, and personal incomes.

To avoid laying off employees during the coming freeze, and in the future, employers looking to supplement the wages of some of their employees can get help with the State of Oregon’s Work Share program.

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According to the website, the federally-funded program “provides an alternative for employers and workers who may be facing the prospect of a lay off situation.” Instead of reducing staff, an employer can reduce hours of work for a select number of employees, where the state then helps by supplementing the reduced wages of those employees.

Only employers can apply for the program and can do so by sending in a written plan to the Oregon Employment Department. To be eligible, employers must have three employees who have worked at least part-time for a year or full-time for six months. They are eligible if employee hours are cut by at least 20%, but not more than 40% per week on a normal workweek of 40 hours or less.

How much can employees earn through the Work Share program? It’s dependent on the income and number of hours reduced. If hours are reduced by 20%, employees will get 20% of the unemployment benefits they would have gotten if they were laid off.

So, for example, if an employee works five days a week and earns $500, reduced to four days a week at $400 (20%), they can receive 20% of their weekly unemployment insurance benefit, in addition to their wage.

Employers can learn more about the Work Share program on its website or FAQ page. 

 

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