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Senate Bills 495, 496 pass through Oregon Senate with bipartisan support, headed to House

PMG FILE PHOTO - Chris GorsekA pair of bills introduced by Sen. Chris Gorsek, D-Gresham, focused on removing adjudication requirements for certain school employees, have passed through the Oregon Senate with bipartisan support.

Oregon law currently restricts most school employees' unemployment benefits by requiring a "reasonable assurance" of returning to work after summer break. The restriction leads to some employees who typically work year-round being denied the summer portion of Unemployment Insurance — which occurred during the 2020 pandemic.

SB 495 and 496 seek to fix the problem by bringing state law in line with U.S. Department of Labor rules, accounting for education employees who don't step away in the summer.

"It's a clear and direct fix to the inconsistent treatment of instructional and early learning assistants, as well as food service workers applying for unemployment benefits," Gorsek said. "These bills ensure that employees that serve our schools will be treated the same as equivalent workers at other organizations. This provides the predictability and fairness needed so that these workers aren't penalized for their choice of occupation."

The bills will now go before the Oregon House. Similar legislation was considered and failed during a special session in 2020.

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