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Politics & Government

FEMA approves Oregon request for $300 weekly unemployment assistance

Unionized hospitality workers wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy Friday, March 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. In Oregon, unemployment claims are spiking because of coronavirus-related shutdowns.
Unionized hospitality workers wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy Friday, March 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. In Oregon, unemployment claims are spiking because of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Oregon has been approved for several weeks of $300 weekly unemployment assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Unemployed Oregonians will be able to get $300 more per week as part of a federal program for which the state applied earlier this week. Officials at the Oregon Employment Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday evening that Oregon has been approved for the “Lost Wages Assistance” program, a fund that promises $44 billion to help the nation’s unemployed.

“FEMA will work with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to implement a system to make this funding available to Oregon residents,” the federal agency said in a brief statement confirming Oregon’s approval.

In the past week, both California and Washington were approved for the program. Federal officials approved Idaho and Montana earlier this month.

Oregon’s Employment Department has struggled to process and pay unemployment claims for thousands of workers since the coronavirus pandemic began. In a written statement, department officials didn’t specify when the $300 payments would first be available, but said the money would be retroactive for eligible Oregonians back to Aug.1.

Oregon officials have tried to temper expectations regarding how long the funding will last. OED director David Gerstenfeld said the federal funding is projected to cover three to five weeks of $300 payments for thousands of out-of-work Oregonians, possibly a little further. But because the money is coming from a disaster relief fund, it could disappear quickly, if natural disasters, such as hurricanes, draw down the fund.

“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,” Gerstenfeld said.

A statement from OED outlines two criteria for eligibility for the federal money. Eligible claimants were unemployed and receiving benefits from July 26 through Aug. 15, 2020, and can self-certify that they are “unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.”

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting.