Computer system forces some claims to shift from one federal program to another.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Oregon Employment Department said changes were coming for some unemployment benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic.All benefits pending to self-employed and gig workers will be paid by the Oregon Employment Department within the next few days.

The agency said in a statement Friday, Feb. 5, that retroactive payments should be entered in its computer system as paid  by Thursday, Feb. 11. Once that happens, they will have your benefits within a few days,  agency officials said.

The latest 11-week extension of benefits is scheduled to end March 13, though some benefits will continue to be paid through April 10.

Acting Director David Gerstenfeld advises people to continue to file their claims with the state agency each week, because the U.S. Department of Labor has said all are eligible for the full 11 weeks of benefits.

Benefits paid to some 70,000 self-employed and gig workers under the program, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, ended abruptly because the Employment Department s computer system is programmed to end benefits after one year.

Those benefits were approved originally under the federal CARES Act, which was signed March 27, 2020. They expired Dec. 26, but Congress extended some benefits for 11 weeks in legislation signed Dec. 27. The extension itself is not retroactive.

About 1,400 people filed recently for benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, but the state computer system may have rejected their claims because of the one-year barrier. Agency officials said they would shift some of them over to the 11-week extension known as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

President Joe Biden has proposed another extension of all unemployment benefits through Sept. 30, the end of the federal budget year. The money is part of Biden's $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan pending in Congress, where Democratic majorities in both chambers have approved a budget resolution. That approval is a preliminary step toward House and Senate votes on the plan as part of budget reconciliation, which requires only simple majorities for passage.

Democratic congressional leaders say they hope to complete action by the middle of March, when the current extension expires.

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NOTE: Corrects target date by leaders for congressional action.

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