'Not really sure how I'll pay bills down the road'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Many Bend-area residents are not sure what the immediate future holds for them, financially. Gov. Kate Brown's state order to close restaurants and bars, only allowing take out and delivery, and school closures have displaced a lot of workers in Central Oregon.
New numbers released Tuesday show Oregon's unemployment rate in January and February was just 3.3 percent, the lowest on record dating back to 1976. But there's no doubt that number is rapidly changing, for the worse, as many in the state suddenly find themselves without a job.
Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist Damon Runberg told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday that because businesses are closing for an unknown period of time, we may be moving toward a recession.
Employment Department call centers around the state are taking a higher volume of calls for people filing for unemployment insurance. Runberg said 15 percent of all jobs in Central Oregon are susceptible to layoffs due to the latest developments.
The state is trying to find workarounds, to help Oregonians who are struggling to pay bills.
"We're running around as quick as we can, trying to put together resources, and push resources to our Unemployment Insurance Division, to make the timeliness of these claims as fast as possible," Runberg said.
"It's also important to note that the state as a whole has been pulling together resources as best they can, to help ease the pain. This is going to be a painful one -- there is no way around it. Obviously, there is going to have to be some policy changes and shifts that will need to be done, to alleviate this."
Filing for unemployment as a temporary layoff, meaning four weeks or fewer, can fast-track the benefits filing process, as those people are able to bypass certain job search requirements.
The Oregon Employment Department also has a Worksource program that allows businesses to receive unemployment dollars directly, in an effort to help avoid layoffs.
NewsChannel 21 spoke with a number of people Tuesday who'd filed for unemployment about how they're being affected.
Tomas Nava, who works for The Phoenix Restaurant, said, "Definitely kind of worried how things will work out right now. Especially right now, with how my money is going to work out. This whole thing is pretty slowing everything down. It's going to be pretty complicated. We have a baby on the way."
Grace Williamson, who works in education said, "I'm working, and anticipating what's going to happen in the future. Things are okay, however, coming in and filing for unemployment. I am trying to offset what might happen in the next few weeks."
Restaurant manager Matthew Ganus said, "Personally, I've been able to save quite a bit over the last few years. I'm not in dire straits, but I do have a lot of employees that are employed with me. I'm worried more about them, because a lot of people in this industry are living paycheck to paycheck, and definitely concerned whether or not people are going to get taken care of."
Restaurant server Kalie Gibson said, "Not really sure how I'll pay bills down the road. I'm not quite sure, even with the food shortage going on, I'm not quite sure how we're going to eat, either. It's kind of a big epidemic going on right now. I don't think anyone planned on it. I definitely didn't plan on it, for sure."
Dakota Pereira, who works for a bread shop, said, "We're already struggling to get by as it is. We're not middle class, we are lower class. We are already poor. Now my job laid me off, and that leaves stress on the other two people, who also still work at that same business. We don't know if they're going to get laid off as well. So hopefully, stuff does end up working out, and this blows over sooner."
Toni Stanovich, another restaurant server, said, "It's a concern. I'm concerned for everyone I work with. I'm concerned with the elderly customers we have. They have no place to go right now. We do have a lot of elderly customers right there. We have our Band of Brothers on Mondays, and it's just affecting everybody."
For more information on the filing process and other COVID-19-related issues for employers and employees, visit: https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Pages/COVID-19.aspx .