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Oregon launches $500 emergency relief program

Oregonians still waiting for their unemployment benefits can now apply for a one-time payment of $500 in emergency relief.

State lawmakers approved the $35 million financial relief program in mid-July, allocating federal dollars from the CARES Act. The program gives $500 in relief for up to 70,000 Oregonians experiencing economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“After months of hearing from increasingly desperate Oregonians who were doing everything right and still not getting the unemployment they were owed, we hope this effort offers a streamlined way for some financial relief,” House Speaker Tina Kotek said Wednesday.

Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney jointly proposed the program in July - a unique “first-of-its-kind” partnership between the state and the private sector, which allows people to receive checks from the nearest participating bank or credit union. According to Kotek, the state had already received more than 100 applications since the program’s launch early Wednesday.

The one-time payments come as some Oregonians continue to wait in limbo for their unemployment benefits from the Oregon Employment Department.

“We know $500 isn’t going to solve all of these problems, but if we can help a family buy groceries for the month, pay for child care, or cover an unexpected repair, it’s worth it,” Senate President Peter Courtney said in a statement.

To apply, people can go to the website of any participating financial institutions to learn how they are accepting applications. Each credit union or bank handles applications differently — but if approved, officials say the institution will provide same-day, one-time payments.

Eligible applicants must have earned less than $4,000 per month before taxes before losing their employment. They also have to prove their identity; be a current Oregon resident; be 18 years or older; and can attest to experiencing severe financial hardship due to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders.

People who are currently receiving unemployment benefits aren’t eligible, but those who never applied for unemployment or were denied benefits may still be eligible.

People can head to the state’s website or call 211 to find out if they’re eligible.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Donald Orr
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