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Thousands of Oregonians get temporary pandemic unemployment boost

Tens of thousands of Oregonians got a temporary boost to their unemployment benefits Wednesday.

The Oregon Employment Department began issuing extra payments of $300 per week that were authorized by President Donald Trump in August.

The agency said it paid out $225 million in Lost Wages Assistance funds to almost 148,000 Oregonians. It is not too late for others to get the extra help, but the department is urging people to act soon.

The temporary program is funded by FEMA and limited in scope. The employment department said it should have enough money for six weeks of payments. Oregonians are eligible if they received unemployment benefits between July 26 and Sept. 5.

However, the payments are not automatic for most people. People who received regular unemployment benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) or Extended Benefits should certify online that their work loss is related to the pandemic. The agency said employers have been asked to help WorkShare recipients on this step.

People receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the federal program for independent contractors and other workers who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment, can skip self-certification. Their extra payments should be automatic.

At his weekly press briefing Wednesday, acting employment department director David Gerstenfeld said roughly 87,000 people might still qualify for the $300 payments. He urged them to self-certify soon, while the money is still available.

It’s unlikely, he said, that the state will run out of money before paying everyone who is eligible. But better safe than sorry.

“There’s always a chance,” he said. “We don’t think that that’s a big chance.”

Gerstenfeld said people with limited English proficiency can call 503-606-6969 or email oed_languageaccess@oregon.gov for help with certification.

People who qualify should receive their money all at once.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting