PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregonians could lose more than $70 million in weekly employment benefits after Labor Day, when some federal pandemic aid programs expire and the state stops paying a $300 weekly unemployment bonus.
David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department, called it a “sobering” moment Wednesday, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. He warned that more than 115,000 Oregonians are receiving assistance under temporary programs that date to the first COVID-19 relief act from March 2020.
Oregon has paid more than $10 billion in jobless aid since the start of the pandemic, most of it federal money provided through a succession of pandemic relief bills. The major programs include the $300 weekly bonus, a benefits extension program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and a new program for self-employed workers called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Those programs expire the week ending Sept. 4.
The number of Oregonians collecting benefits each week has been declining for several months and beginning this week, workers must demonstrate they are searching for new jobs to continue receiving aid.
But Oregon’s jobless rate remains elevated at 5.6%.
The state has now reopened nearly all of its WorkSource job search assistance offices. Gerstenfeld also noted that employers are hiring at a nearly unprecedented rate.