BOLI Commissioner Hoyle’s innovative Pro Labor and Pro Industry Policy

Oregon lawmakers must take action to support businesses and workers as we continue to deal with the economic fallout from COVID-19. We must give our state’s workforce viable options to put food on the table. This is a measure that is pro-worker, pro-business, and good for Oregon’s economy and I
strongly encourage you to adopt this policy.”
– Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle

Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle has a simple and effective way to encourage small businesses to expand their employment base in smaller increments and encourage unemployed to accept part time employment as a path to re enter the job market without losing the unemployment benefits they earned and receive.

Commissioner Hoyle’s proposal is to change the unemployment earnings exemption to increase the amount of money a worker can earn before their weekly benefit amount is reduced. This will allow workers to get back to work part-time without losing money and help businesses- particularly small business of less than 25 employees- feel comfortable opening up slowly without having to worry about supporting full time employees or asking workers to take a financial hit coming back to work.

Currently unemployed persons can earn up to $150/week and still qualify for unemployment benefits. Thats only $600/month. If they earn more they lose their unemployment which is usually much more than $600. This disincentivizes taking any part time work. Hoyle’s solution isn’t too different from prior reforms made to Medicare. When it was realized that people wouldn’t take work if they lost medicare benefits for their family’s the eligibility limit was increased so people could take work without losing their healthcare.

Hoyle believes time is of the essence and has urged the Governors office and the Legislature to take a look at her plan.

“The federal pandemic unemployment weekly $600 supplement ends on July 31.” Hoyle pointed out, and she doesn’t expect Congress to extend that program intact. That will result in a loss of income for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians starting August 1. Hoyle feels the need to fill that income loss is urgent and without action from state lawmakers to support Oregon families, the months ahead will be even more financially challenging.

On a personal note: As a small business owner myself, I enthusiastically support this proposal. In my 20 person business I currently have a need for a part time person, but hiring a full time person with benefits would be a stretch. And offering only a part time position limits applicants for the position as many don’t want to lose their benefits for a part time job. I would accelerate that hiring if Commissioner Hoyles proposal were adopted.

There is precedent for Hoyles proposal. In Georgia, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler worked with the Governor and Legislature to allow individuals to increase the earnings exemption amount from $55 to $300 so workers can continue to receive unemployment while taking a part time position. Any amount made each week over $300 is deducted from a claimant’s weekly unemployment amount. Georgia officials claim that the program has brought over 40 million dollars into their economy.

Adopting this or a similar policy, Oregon would support workers, and small businesses, better than we are.

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