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Unemployment Eligibility and Qualifications
General Benefits Eligibility Criteria
Eligibility for Oregon unemployment insurance benefits is dependent upon a set of requirements that must be met in order to qualify. The eligibility criteria changes every year in reflection of the employment situation throughout state. You must meet specific work and wages criteria to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
The best way to gauge your eligibility to collect unemployment benefits in Oregon is to file. There are no penalties for filing a claim that is ultimately denied as long as all the information you provide is accurate and true. Providing false or misleading information is considered fraud, and punishable by law. Fraudulent claims can lead to fines and/or possible imprisonment.
The application process usually takes no longer than an hour to complete. The following criteria are important to understand, and prepare for, before submitting your initial application for unemployment insurance benefits.
Work Eligibility Criteria
To qualify for unemployment benefits under Oregon employment laws, you must be:
- Currently searching for work
- Available and able to work
- Willing to accept suitable work (work that you did in the past or that pays a wage at or near your last wage)
- Unemployed through no fault of your own and did quit under your own volition or due to misconduct or disobedience
- Filing weekly claims to gauge your eligibility
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Currently, there are no required minimum number of work hours to meet in order to qualify for unemployment benefits in Oregon. However, there are secondary work-hours criteria set in place if you do not meet the wages eligibility criteria (explained below in Wages Eligibility Criteria).
Wages Eligibility Criteria
Along work eligibility criteria, your eligibility is also based on wages you earned during your base period. If you didn't earn wages over at least a 12-month period, you're unlikely to qualify for unemployment benefits.
The wages eligibility to collect unemployment insurance benefits in Oregon falls under two different criteria. If you do not qualify under the first criteria, the second is applied. You must have:
- Earned at least $1,000 in wages from employers who paid unemployment taxes and earned gross base year wages that are at least one and a half times higher than the highest calendar quarter wages of that base period, OR
- Worked at least 500 hours for an employer who pays unemployment taxes during the base year – the amount of wages here do not matter for your qualification, but will influence your Weekly Benefit Amount.
A base year in Oregon is defined as the one-year period before the date you filed your claim. So if you filed in March 2016, your base year would be March 2015 to March 2016.
EXAMPLE: You would qualify for unemployment under the first criteria if you earned $30,000 from an employer, during which your highest paid quarter was $9,000.
$9,000 x 1.5 = $13,500, which $30,000 is well above to meet eligibility.
Unemployment Availability Limits
Your unemployment insurance benefits availability will be limited or eliminated if you:
- Were fired for misconduct or quit your job for personal reasons
- Are unable or unavailable to work in a week – you will lose benefits that week
- Refuse a suitable full-time position
- Fail to report moving to a new location or fail to search for work once you are living there
- Attend school and fail to report it or apply for extended benefits
- Commit fraud or misreport information on your weekly claims
- Serve time in jail or prison without reporting it – reporting will halt your benefits until you are released. Failure to report your incarceration could cause an overpayment of benefits that you would be responsible to later repay.
Your Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) is adjusted if you receive wages from a part-time job or any other earned income during a week. All wages must be reported, including any money made from odd jobs, such as plowing a driveway.
Your WBA is adjusted to reflect any wages you earn during a claim week. If your wages are 10 times Oregon's minimum hourly wage, or one-third of your Weekly Benefit Amount (whichever is higher), it is decreased by the amount over the qualifying criteria amount.
EXAMPLE: You earn $300 in weekly benefits and $150 in wages. Since $100 is one-third of $300, you would subtract your wages by $100 to get $50. Then, you would subtract that from your weekly benefit to get $250. The second criteria would not apply, as 10 times the minimum wage in Oregon ($9.75) is $97.50, which is lower than $100.
Although Oregon no longer receives funds from the federal unemployment extension program, it does offer extended benefits to dislocated workers who are attending school. These benefits are intended to supplement income for a time, but does not provide funding for training. It does, however, eliminate the work search requirement from weekly claims (to be discussed in-depth below), as long as attendance is on a full-time basis.
Extended benefits last 26 weeks while you receive training in the Training Unemployment Insurance program. This program offers short-term training (including help in obtaining an Associate degree), but may be used to help if a Bachelor's or Master's degree student is 48 credits, or less, short of obtaining their degree.
Applying for this program requires calling (800) 436-6191 and pressing 1 on the automated menu to request an application. File your application by mailing it to the address printed on the form. It could take up to three weeks to receive your determination.