SALEM, OR (KPTV) - While some places across the county are slashing unemployment benefits to get people back to work, Oregon is hoping a different approach will be the solution.
Oregon lawmakers passed House Bill 3178, which would allow employees who work part time to keep their unemployment benefits. The bill now heads to the governor to be signed into law.
The bill’s sponsors hope this could be a solution to struggling businesses, which are having a hard time getting people to fill open positions. That’s especially true of the hospitality industry.
“It’s really difficult for us to find people to go to work and the way things are going with the opening and closing of counties for indoor dining has been incredibly difficult to try and schedule folks,” said Greg Astley, the director of government affairs with the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association.
HB 3178 would allow workers to get up to $300 a week before their unemployment benefits are reduced. This would allow employees to work part time and still receive full unemployment benefits.
The bill is supported by the labor department as well as the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association.
“This bill helps workers to at least get some shifts while still maintaining their unemployment insurance benefits. And it helps our operators make sure they’re able to bring people on to work those shifts during this uncertain time and maintain those unemployment insurance benefits as well,” Astley said.
Not everyone is as optimistic, though. Brenda Kallein is general manger of The Matador in Southeast Portland and says she has been having an extremely difficult time finding fulltime employees.
“I can’t find cooks to save my life. Why would you want to come off unemployment? It’s a great amount of money right now. It’s hard to find good quality employees. And the ones coming in want a real high wage. More than we’ve ever seen in this industry before,” she said.
She worries these benefits could lead to employees only seeking limited hours to ensure they still get full unemployment benefits.
“I kind of feel like this is just teaching Oregonians to be more lazy and to work the system,” Kallein said.
She said she thinks the solution to the unemployment problem is to stop changing county risk levels and allow restaurants to fully open.
“I had a couple employees quit this last go around. They said we can’t just keep going up and down,” she said.
Other restaurant owners, however, said they do support the bill, because just getting bodies in the door to work has been such a struggle.
If signed into law, the bill will change the definition of unemployment until January 2022.