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State agency begins taking applications from wage earners with self-employment work.

A new federal program run by the Oregon Employment Department will pay unemployment benefits to people who earned money from regular jobs and also self-employment.

The state agency began accepting applications for what is known as the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program, the sixth such program Congress has created since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Acting Director David Gerstenfeld said the program was created in response to workers who earned wages and were eligible for regular benefits from the state unemployment trust fund, but whose outside income from self-employment did not count toward any additional benefits.

"Congress heard the outcry from these workers," Gerstenfeld said in a statement. "Now that the program has launched, Oregonians who have side income will see that reflected in their weekly benefit amount."

Workers are eligible for the new program if they earned wages (W-2 form) and a net income of at least $5,000 from self-employment in the most recent taxable year before they applied for unemployment benefits. The extra benefit is $100 per week.

These workers must have received at least one dollar in regular benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits.

Not eligible for this program are self-employed and gig workers who receive federal benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

The new program was created by Congress under legislation signed by then-President Donald Trump on Dec. 27. Benefits under it are retroactive to Dec. 27. Congress extended the program to Sept. 4 under the $1.9 trillion pandemic recovery plan that President Joe Biden signed on March 11.

Gerstenfeld said his agency took time to implement the new program after giving priority to extensions of other programs that Congress approved earlier in 2020.

"It is another new program with new requirements," he said in an earlier conference call with reporters. "We want to get it right and make the application process as smooth as possible."

Before the agency opened the process, Gerstenfeld said the staff ran a pilot project with about 200 claimants believed to be eligible for the new benefit.

People who think they may be eligible for benefits under the new program will need to submit proof of qualifying income to the Employment Department. The quickest way to apply is online by visiting the Online Claim System and clicking "MEUC."

Those unable to apply online can submit their application and required documentation by mail. Claimants without internet access can call the Employment Department's Tax Section at (503) 947-1488 for instructions on what information to send and where to send it. Eligible claimants will receive payments approximately three weeks after approved documents have been received.

Information: https://unemployment.oregon.gov

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