PORTLAND, Ore — The Oregon Employment Department’s (OED) application for the federal government’s new assistance program for unemployed workers has been approved.
That means Oregonians will be able to get an extra $300 per week for an estimated three to five weeks, or potentially longer, through FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, which President Donald Trump authorized earlier this month.
The full duration of the LWA program depends on the number of participating states and the number of payments that go out. The program can use up to $44 billion in disaster relief funding.
Forty-four states have already been approved to receive the grant.
According to the OED, Oregon has been approved to provide three weeks of payments, and benefits will be dispersed to Oregonians who received unemployment benefits from July 26 through August 15. The department says it will seek additional weeks of LWA benefits as soon as they become available.
Payments will be retroactive, going back to the week ending Aug. 1.
The extra boost would help Oregonians who lost their jobs months ago when the state shut down. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 500,000 people have filed for unemployment in Oregon, causing major delays in people receiving funds. Some Oregonians have been waiting on benefits since the beginning of the pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate was 10.4% in July.
Who is eligible?
The OED says Oregonians automatically qualify for this program if they:
- Have received unemployment benefits from July 26, 2020, through August 15, 2020; and
- Self-certify they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. This will require a new step for claimants currently receiving regular unemployment benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Extended Benefits (EB). Individuals receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will not need to certify because they already did so when they first applied for benefits.
When will people start receiving money?
The Employment Department says it is still working to implement this program in an effort to get benefits to people as soon as possible. The OED says as soon as there is an estimated time when payments will be released, or next steps for people to seek these benefits, that information will be shared publicly, including on its website.
In a hearing Wednesday with an Oregon legislative committee, the department said it hopes to start issuing payments by late September but that is still a "rough estimate".
“We know this has been a very stressful period for many Oregonians. While we continue to hope for more robust, longer-term support for those in need, we are excited to be able to provide additional financial relief at this time. We are working quickly to get this program up and running, and get funds out the door as soon as possible,” said acting OED Director David Gersenfeld.
Last month, Oregon launched a $35 million relief check program that was created to issue a one-time payment of $500 to 70,000 Oregonians still waiting for unemployment benefits.
Just three days later, the program ended after all the checks had been distributed.