▶️ What now? Economist says ‘if you’re curious at all…might as well file’ for unemployment benefits


This time last week, 800 Oregonians were filing for unemployment each day.

On Tuesday alone, 18,000 filed.

The spread of COVID-19 has put an unexpected financial strain on businesses and their employees who have suddenly found themselves without work for an undetermined amount of time.

Businesses in Central Oregon have shuttered their doors temporarily to prevent the spread of the disease and promote social distancing.

Full time musician Dave Finch hasn’t had a gig since the beginning of March.

“I’ve had three gigs cancelled in the last week and a half alone,” Finch said.

Like many others, bartender and performance artist Alex Simpson found out he was out of work Monday.

“Completely unemployed right now due to what’s going on, legally can’t be employed in either of my professions right now,” Simpson said. 

Simpson and Finch are two of thousands who have suddenly found themselves without work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most of the people I know are in the service industry and we’re all kind of in this ‘What now?’  panic mode,” Simpson said. “Having no income has not been a fun thing.”

For those like Finch and Simpson, there are options for filing for unemployment benefits.

And with the sudden influx of those who have suddenly become unemployed, they’ve expanded who can claim.

“Filing for unemployment can be a little intimidating, but don’t be intimidated,” said Regional Economist Damon Runberg. “The recommendation is that if have any question whether you do or don’t qualify or if you’re curious at all, you might as well file a claim. It doesn’t hurt, you don’t get penalized for filing a claim.”

That includes those who are self-employed or do freelance work.

“There are some people who are self-employed who might be able to get some benefits especially if  their self-employed is a sort of side hustle or side gig like that, if they have some sort of wages that they’ve earned in other places,” Runberg said.

Finch and Simpson say they’re not looking to file just yet, but are doing what they can for now and pushing forward.

“I trust that everything is going to be okay,” Finch said. “I trust in my community and, you know, it takes a village.”

“We don’t know what we’re going to do!” Simpson added. “But we’re all in this together.”

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