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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View Entire Issue (July 28, 2021)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 28, 2021
20,000 Oregonians owed
unemployment but they
must do this ﬁrst
Address: P.O. Box 13009, Salem, OR 97309
Web site: www.SilvertonAppeal.com
Bill Poehler and Claire Withycombe
Salem Statesman Journal
USA TODAY NETWORK
Desperation brought Tony Ceballos to
the concrete oﬃces of the Oregon Employ-
ment Department in Salem in the spring of
He had exhausted every other option he
could think of to submit his unemployment
paperwork – including multiple treks to Of-
ﬁce Max to use the fax machine. Those all
ended with busy signals.
It was his third trip to Salem. Each time,
Ceballos took the bus from his home in In-
dependence. His car was broken and he
didn’t have the money to ﬁx it.
Once at the oﬃce, he attempted to hand
his paperwork to agency employees as they
arrived for work. The workers just streamed
After an argument with a security guard,
someone ﬁnally took his papers. But Cebal-
los would have to wait another six months
before he got his ﬁrst check.
And his struggles to receive the unem-
ployment payments he qualiﬁed for didn't
Ceballos is among 5,800 self-employed
Oregonians whose payments were stopped
because the state said they didn't provide
He is among the plaintiﬀs in a lawsuit
the Oregon Law Center brought against Da-
vid Gerstenfeld, the director of the Employ-
ment Department, in May. The lawsuit al-
leged the department unjustly rejected
claims, did not give reasons for the rejec-
tions or did not provide applicants a way to
Last month, the state settled that law-
Ceballos and the other 5,800 Oregonians
now have until Sept. 4 to clear up their claim
or will have to pay back all the unemploy-
ment they received in 2021.
Another 21,300 self-employed Orego-
nians can still receive beneﬁts for 2021 by
submitting information by Sept. 4, accord-
ing to the same settlement.
Settlement buys self-employed time
Emily Teplin Fox, an attorney with the
Oregon Law Center, represented the plain-
tiﬀs in the case.
Teplin Fox said she thinks many will not
realize the importance of the initial notice
Hours: until 7 p.m. Wednesdays;
until 3 p.m. other weekdays
and the new notices they received in the
mail or email.
“If they don’t submit suﬃcient proof of
employment by Sept. 4th, they will be
charged an overpayment of every dollar
they received in 2021,” Teplin Fox said.
According to the employment depart-
ment, about 21,300 people seeking beneﬁts
through the program for self-employed peo-
ple in 2020 didn't submit enough of the
newly required information in 2021 to re-
ceive any unemployment payments this
year. That group could still receive beneﬁts
because of the settlement.
Another 5,800, including Ceballos,
stopped receiving payments the week of
April 24 because the documentation they
submitted was deemed insuﬃcient.
If they don’t get a new determination of
their proof of unemployment, they will have
to pay back all of the unemployment bene-
ﬁts they received in 2021, an average of
$8,600 according to Teplin Fox.
A new job ﬁzzles in the pandemic
Send letters to the editor and news releases to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ceballos moved to Independence in 2019
and was working at a tire shop in the city.
In March 2020, he was hired by the U.S.
Census Bureau to work from its oﬃce in Sa-
lem. Because of that job, he resigned from
the tire store.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and
the census job didn’t happen.
Since he was in the midst of changing
jobs, Ceballos was eligible for Pandemic Un-
employment Assistance, which was autho-
rized under the federal CARES Act and
aimed at the self-employed and gig work-
As new laws designed to help people in
his situation were passed, Ceballos had to
deliver to the state unemployment agency
increasingly detailed paperwork about his
When the Continued Assistance Act was
signed into law in December, Ceballos and
the more than 100,000 self-employed peo-
ple in Oregon suddenly faced new hurdles
to getting their checks.
Originally, people in his situation could
simply attest they were self-employed. But
starting in December, the Oregon Employ-
ment Department – in accordance with
new federal guidance – required more
Applicants had to submit documents in-
cluding written statements from companies
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conﬁrming they were self-employed but as-
sociated with the company, such as work-
ing as a contractor.
Then the employment department
changed its rules again.
In March, the American Rescue Plan be-
came law. It required applicants to have
those statements notarized, a legal process
where signatures are witnessed.
Ceballos' payments stopped in April.
He would have given up and walked
away. But he didn’t have another option.
Ceballos was taking classes to earn his
commercial driver’s license. He needed un-
employment beneﬁts to get by until he
could complete his training and get a job.
He submitted the new paperwork, but
the state had determined the notarized aﬃ-
davits he submitted to prove he was unem-
ployed weren’t enough, and he couldn’t ﬁnd
“It stopped me from looking for work,”
Ceballos said of the massive amount of time
he spent trying to receive beneﬁts. “It
stopped me from doing my job search in
Improperly denying unemployment
According to the lawsuit brought by the
Oregon Law Center, at least 5,800 people in
Oregon complied with the department’s
new April requirements for proof of employ-
ment, but the department rejected them
The state and Oregon Law Center settled
the suit in June. The state agreed to explain
to applicants why their claims were rejected
and to call or email them to try to resolve the
issue. The employment department said in
a statement it is reaching out to everyone in
The department has agreed to add a new
option on its online “Contact Us” form: “I
don’t understand why my POE was reject-
ed,” though that option doesn’t yet appear
on its webpage.
About 110,000 people in Oregon received
beneﬁts through that program. According to
the employment department, another
26,000 people stopped receiving beneﬁts at
the start of the year because they did not
provide any proof of their self-employment;
if they submit that proof, they could still re-
Teplin Fox said some people could have
missed the notices of new requirements
amongst the automated rejection letters the
department sends out or the emails from
the department that end up in spam folders.
“I’m sure a lot of people just throw up
their hands and walk away because the sys-
tem is very, very prohibitively hard to navi-
gate,” Teplin Fox said.
Finally getting paid, and a new job
Teplin Fox said The Oregon Law Center
submitted documentation for Ceballos in
June, including additional proof of employ-
ment and his W2s from 2019.
Within a few days, his eligibility was
reinstated and he received 10 weeks of over-
Had he not had that intervention, Cebal-
los would have had to pay back the unem-
ployment beneﬁts he received since the be-
ginning of the year.
Ceballos got his commercial driver’s li-
cense in June and started a job driving a
dump truck for Independence-based Snair
Excavating June 25.
He’s excited about his new job, and eager
to learn the intricacies of an 18-speed trans-
mission. He's relieved he no longer has to
worry about unemployment.
“It’s a mess that I’m glad I don’t have to
deal with anymore,” Ceballos said.
Bill Poehler covers Marion County for the
Statesman Journal. Contact him at
email@example.com or Twit-
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plate (SM 00001 through SM 00020)
will have the opportunity to bid on Ebay
(search for “Coalition of Oregon Land
Trusts Salmon License Plate”) for a cov-
eted low number spot starting Tuesday
through 5 p.m. July 30.
The Salmon Plate VIP List auction
will be hosted by the Oregon Conserva-
tion Partnership in partnership with
other Oregon nonproﬁts that also sup-
port salmon recovery in the state.
Participants will be able to designate
which organization receives their dona-
tion if they secure a winning bid.
To ensure drivers get the salmon
plate design they desire, Oregonians
must apply on or before Aug. 31 for the
classic license plate. If a vehicle already
has a classic salmon plate, the owner
will be able to keep and renew it as usu-
There will be a hard switch to the new
plate design Sept. 1. If a driver is inter-
ested in the new design, they will have
to apply for the plate after Sept. 1. Orders
online or in-person before Aug. 31 will
This classic salmon design for Oregon
license plates will be discontinued
Aug. 31 to make way for an updated
salmon plate design. OREGON DEPARTMENT
OF MOTOR VEHICLES
receive the classic plate.
More information about the new
salmon license plate, auction rules and
orsalmonplates.com. Registration fees
and ordering information are available
on the DMV website.
The Oregon DMV oﬀers 21 diﬀerent li-
cense plate background options that are
available to everyone.
Dianne Lugo is a reporter at the
Statesman Journal covering equity and
social justice. You can reach her at
936-4811 or on Twitter @DianneLugo.