Oregon Cities

As reimbursement policy ends, more Oregon employees are working from out of state

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State employees who live outside of Oregon can no longer be reimbursed for the cost of traveling back to the state for work purposes, under a rule change that took effect on Friday.

That hasn’t stopped state employees from opting to work for the Beaver State from outside of its borders.

According to the Department of Administrative Services, the number of state employees working from out of state has shot up in recent months, despite stricter rules for remote workers.

Under a pandemic-era policy, workers in some state agencies were granted wide leeway to work remotely — even from far-flung states like Texas or Florida. And when those employees were required to travel back to Oregon for work reasons, the state picked up the tab.

Willamette Week first reported on the policy last year, highlighting how some highly paid employees of the Oregon Lottery had thousands of dollars worth of travel costs back to Oregon repaid. That sparked a backlash, with lawmakers signaling they were ready to pass a bill to end the practice.

But Gov. Tina Kotek acted first, announcing in April that she would stop the reimbursement practice as of Sept. 1.

A new policy sent to state employees on Thursday makes clear that costs associated with travel from an employee’s home to their workplace count as personal expenses that are not reimbursable.

“Examples include, but are not limited to, airfare, train fare, airport parking, lodging, meals, mileage to airport or train depot, and parking costs at the central workplace or alternate workplace,” the policy says.

State agencies are required to pay to ship equipment to and from employees working from out of state, under the policy.

The specter of new travel costs has evidently not deterred state workers who see a benefit in living and working out of state. In February, DAS officials told lawmakers that 432 of the state’s roughly 40,000 executive branch employees were designated as “out of state” remote employees.

As of Aug. 28, that number was 496, DAS said. The state did not provide geographic-specific data, meaning it’s not clear how many workers live in Clark County or other just across the border in Idaho or Northern California, versus more distant places.

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