Recently PAT members voted to approve the Work Share Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and begin a plan for short term furlough days. Everyone understands the terms of the MOA, but some may not understand either Oregon Work Share or the CARES Act.
Because Oregon’s tax revenue stream is primarily supplied by personal income tax, every state-funded program faces cuts in next year’s budget. PPS is no exception. All of us recognize that cuts in PAT staffing means not only hardship for our members (loss of jobs and increased workload for those who remain employed), but also hardships for the students we serve each day because of larger class sizes and reduced programs. Luckily for PPS, PAT, and the students in Portland, there is the possibility to access funds through the CARES Act and Oregon Work Share.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became effective March 27th, 2020. It is a package that contains 2 trillion dollars of federal relief and economic stimulus “for American workers, families, and small businesses,” with the stated purpose of preserving jobs. One of the specific ways that the CARES Act is designed to work is by giving payments to states which have programs that qualify for the funding, and Oregon is one of those states.
Work Share Oregon is an example of a State of Oregon program that is able to access some of the federal CARES Act money. Work Share allows employers to leverage unemployment insurance (UI) to subsidize a portion of lost wages for employers whose work time is reduced due to market downturns or other business stressors such as the economic crisis of COVID-19. In other words, it is designed to help Oregon workers who are furloughed rather than laid off.
PPS and PAT, as well as all of the other PPS union-represented employees in DCU, ATU, SEIU, and PFSP, have agreed to address the looming budget cuts by setting aside money for next year by furloughing employees one day a week for the rest of this year.
The MOA that was approved by the PAT members and the PPS School Board is the agreement that will allow those furloughs to happen. As all of you know, by design, no one will be financially harmed as we proceed. The mechanism that allows this to happen is that PPS employees will take part in the Oregon Work Share program.
Keep in mind that our MOA specifically states that if an employee is deemed ineligible for Work Share, or if the entire Work Share/CARES Act program is stopped, PPS will return those individuals or the entire group to the pre-furlough schedule, and restore any lost days.
There are still details that we must work out, such as a workload agreement with PPS now that we will be on a four-day week. However, the PAT memberships’ recognition that we needed to protect our students and each other will help make next year a little less difficult.