Oregon, Washington unsure of unemployment benefits order


States unsure how President Trump's executive orders would work

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Over the weekend, President Trump signed a series of executive actions aimed at economic relief that includes enhanced unemployment benefits — just at a lower dollar amount than before.

Trump’s executive order cuts the benefit to claimants from $600 to $400 a week — but states would have to pay $100 of that amount.

Officials in both Oregon and Washington don’t know how that would work. The Washington Employment Security Departments said they’re assessing Trump’s memo and ask claimants not to call about it. The Oregon Employment Department also said they’re looking into what this means.

But the executive director of the National Employment Law Project said states cannot use their current unemployment infrastructure to pay a benefit that is not authorized by Congress. That means states will have to set up a new way to add these payments to existing benefits.

Even before this, officials in both Washington and Oregon told KOIN 6 News a new benefit program would take anywhere from a couple weeks to 5 months.

“Even if it’s the most simple version of just changing the dollar amount we need to change the dollar amount in the coding. That is being applied to a number of different benefit programs and we need to do testing to make sure it doesn’t have unintended consequences,” OED Acting Director David Gerstenfeld said.

Experts also say some states may have to go further into debt to pay their share of the $400 benefit. When President Trump was asked about states that can’t afford to chip in, he said, “We can make a decision on that on individual states with an application.”

That created more confusion about how this would actually work.

For now, both Oregon and Washington said they’re watching it closely and hope to put out more information in the next few days.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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