Coronavirus Q&A for Employers

Published Wednesday, March 25, 2020

How do I know if my business is closed?

The governor, in her executive orders, has been very specific about which businesses are closed. If your industry is not on the list, the presumption is that you may remain open so long as you implement the social distancing requirements of the governor’s March 23 Stay Home, Save Lives order. Some businesses have had uncertainties about how specific aspects of the order impact them. If you have questions, please let us know by email and we will try to get an answer.

Will there be more business closures?

We have no indication of additional ordered closures at this time. We are staying in close touch with the governor’s office and will relay information to our members as we get it should the situation change.

What are the rules around social distancing?

Gov. Brown said individuals must be six feet away from one another, and every work site must designate an employee to oversee social distancing implementation. We are waiting for additional specific guidance from the Oregon Health Authority. In the meantime, the governor’s office said companies should review the OSHA guidelines, and that this fact sheet issued by our colleagues at Associated General Contractors, provides good information.

Do my employees need to have a letter saying they are authorized to travel for work?

No. This guidance from the Oregon State Police states clearly that officers will not be asking for or looking for any special kind of paperwork from employers showing that an individual is authorized to travel for a job. Many members have told us their employees have asked for a letter. Click here for a sample you can use, if you want to do this.

If I lay people off, will they qualify for unemployment?

The Oregon Employment Department has issued this temporary rule to make it easier for workers who are laid off as a result of this crisis to access unemployment insurance benefits. We expect more guidance, including making it clear that, if an unemployed worker demonstrates a willingness to look for work after the Stay Home order expires, they will be deemed to be looking for work and qualify for benefits. The employment department has asked that individuals with questions use the special email they have set up to avoid overwhelming their telephone system.

Are there financial resources for businesses adversely impacted by the crisis?

Yes. Oregon has qualified for emergency Small Business Administration loans. These loans apply to businesses of all sizes, private nonprofits, homeowners and renters. For businesses, the loan can be as much as $2 million for physical damage, or as much as $2 million for economic damage for small businesses, agricultural coops, or private nonprofits. Click here for the SBA COVID-19 resources webpage.  

Additionally, Business Oregon has a number of programs employers can access, and we understand that the state’s Regional Solutions teams will offer small “layoff aversion” grants to employers who qualify. Finally, make sure you check what is being offered through your local economic development agency.

How will the new federal paid leave program work?

We just received this guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor. Please note that employers are required to post this information. If your employees are working remotely, we suggest you email it them. 

We are analyzing how this will related to Oregon-specific leave programs and will give you information as we get it. Click here for more information from our partners at Innova Legal Advisors.