The restaurant where I work was closed a lot last year due to COVID-19. I did collect unemployment, though (eventually). We've since reopened—but now I'm losing a bunch of hours because of the snowstorm. Can I collect for this time also? —Baker's Treat
I've long maintained that, over the long haul, you'll never go broke betting against predictions of snowpocalypse in Portland.
However, as I dictate this column into my phone on a hill 25 blocks from my house—the house where, after 24 hours, there is still no electricity or cell service—I'm forced to admit that even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while.
For most service workers, a snow day is just an unpaid holiday—one that you can't even enjoy, because the weather is too lousy. You're out of work through no fault of your own: It seems only fair that you should be able to collect unemployment insurance, right?
Of course, we all know the world is full of things that are "only fair"—retirement plans, health insurance—that restaurant workers don't get. In this case, however, you may be in luck.
"If someone were experiencing a layoff due to weather conditions, they could be eligible for benefits," says Oregon Employment Department economist Gail Krumenauer, whom I'm quoting by name so you won't think I'm making this up.
In normal times, it might not be worth opening an unemployment claim over a few missed snow days, since you don't collect for the first week you're unemployed anyway—the so-called waiting week.
However, folks (like you) who already have an open UI claim have already served their waiting week. You should be able to reopen your claim and collect your standard benefit amount, plus that additional $300 ($300: It's the new $600!) that Congress approved back in December.
If you missed work but don't have an existing UI claim, don't despair: The waiting-week requirement is currently waived through March 13. (Act now!) If you like money more than you hate paperwork, it's probably worth your while to open a claim for your weather-related furlough, brief though it was.
You see, Treat, snowpocalypse really does have an upside! Even so, as far as I'm concerned every Californian who spent last week praying for snow—because they think it's so goddamn pretty—can go fuck themselves right into the ground.
Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.