PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Tony Ceballos applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits in the spring of 2020. After about a 6 month wait he started receiving them.
But in April 2021 he said he lost the PUA benefits for 10 weeks because of a new federal requirement requiring recipients to provide proof of employment — that is, that their work ended of was reduced because of the pandemic.
Because of this requirement, the Oregon Law Center said more than 23,000 people lost their unemployment benefits and some were about to be told they had to pay back all the money they received.
But it wasn’t because they, including Ceballos, didn’t qualify. In many cases they weren’t aware of the new requirement or couldn’t figure out what documents to submit to meet it.
“My strong guess is that a ton of people out there just either didn’t know that they had to file this additional proof or they tried to file proof and are not sure why what they filed isn’t good enough,” said Emily Teplin Fox with the Oregon Law Center.
“I was at a loss for what to do, honestly,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I couldn’t understand what more was necessary of me. “
He almost had his car repossessed as he tried to figute out what he needed to do to get his PUA benefits back.
With the help of Legal Aid Services of Oregon and the Oregon Law Center, a group of people sued the Oregon Employment Department over this issue and recently reached a settlement.
Anyone who lost benefits because of this federal requirements has until September 4 to submit your proof of employment even if you were previously denied. Once submitted, the Oregon Employment Department has to review it within 2 weeks. If your proof is rejected, the OED has to explain exactly why it was rejected to give you a chance to fix it.
“So even if people’s benefits have been cut off because of this proof requirement and they haven’t received benefits for many weeks, they can still get their benefits restarted and get back pay for the benefits they’ve missed, but they have to fulfill this requirement by September 4,” Teplin Fox said.
People with questions about their unemployment benefits can contact their local legal aid office, or the Public Benefits Hotline at 800.520.5292.