August 12, 2020 (Salem, Ore.) — Self-employed claimants could get a boost today from the Oregon Employment Department. New guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor gives the agency more flexibility to set the definition of “gross earnings” for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims.
The new definition now takes self-employed PUA claimants’ expenses into account. Before the new definition of “gross earnings,” benefits for self-employed claimants were solely determined on gross receipts. The Oregon Employment Department is now defining “gross earnings” as gross receipts received during the week, minus 25 percent of the prior calendar month’s expenses. Expenses include the business portion of rent, utilities, products, materials, and office supplies.
Under the new definition, some PUA self-employed claimants who previously reported too much in gross receipts to qualify for benefits could now receive some additional weeks of benefits. This also applies to self-employed claimants who had a reduced benefit amount.
This definition will be used going forward, and will also be applied retroactively. That means some self-employed PUA claimants could get benefits or higher payments for weeks they already claimed. Updated claims resulting in new weeks of PUA benefits will also receive the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) for eligible weeks between March 29 and July 25, 2020.
“This change could bring substantial financial relief to thousands of self-employed Oregonians who are or have been out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We heard these concerns of our self-employed PUA claimants, and are happy that we have found a way to address them,” said acting director David Gerstenfeld.
Getting higher weekly PUA benefit payments only applies to those who:
- Are self-employed (claimants do not get W-2 tax forms),
- Qualify for PUA,
- Submitted weekly PUA claims using the old definition of “gross earnings,” which was simply total gross receipts for that week, and
- Updated “gross earnings” are lower than their maximum weekly benefit amount (not including the $600 FPUC benefits).
Self-employed PUA claimants who wish to request a higher weekly benefit payment may report up to 20 weeks of updated “gross earnings” by visiting the PUA Gross Earnings page on unemployment.oregon.gov. It will take us up to six weeks to complete the “gross earnings” review. We will notify claimants via email when their review is complete. If claimants qualify for any adjustments, they should get their payments within one week of the completion of the review. Self-employed PUA claimants who received the full benefit amount do not need to update their gross earnings for those weeks.