PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon hopes to start paying a new, $300 weekly unemployment bonus in the next few weeks, providing a financial boost to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who had their benefits cut by at least half at the end of July.
The state declared earlier this week that it would seek the funds, authorized by President Donald Trump in an executive order. The money replaces, at a significantly lower level, a $600 weekly unemployment bonus Congress authorized in March.
That money expired last month and Congress is deadlocked over a possible extension.
Implementing the new $300 payments will require reprogramming the state’s obsolete system for paying unemployment benefits. David Gerstenfeld, interim head of the Oregon Employment Department, said in a media call Wednesday that he’s not sure how long the updates will take but hopes to have the benefits in people’s hands within a few weeks.
The added benefits will be retroactive to the end of July and will likely cover three to five weeks of bonuses, according to Gerstenfeld. He said that’s all the money the federal emergency program has to pay benefits, and cautioned the benefits could be depleted sooner if wildfires or hurricanes exhaust it sooner.
Oregon has paid more than $4 billion in jobless benefits since the pandemic began but has struggled to keep up with the unprecedented claims volume.