PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits created by the federal CARES Act ends Saturday, July 25. That’s why on Friday, Oregon workers called on Congress to pass immediate pandemic relief. If that doesn’t happen soon, Oregon families will start to feel the impact.
For some people, that extra $600 is the reason they were able to continue to pay bills and buy groceries. In June, KOIN 6 News’ Lindsay Nadrich spoke to Marty Caballero, who owns Slabtown Barbershop in Northwest Portland. At the time, he was still waiting for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.
In a follow-up with him Friday, we learned he finally got the checks in the mail, all at once, from the Oregon Employment Department.
“I got 24 checks in the mail one day, it was pretty wild,” said Caballero. “So, I got $200 a week from the state, and then it was the $600 a week from the federal government — that really actually helped.”
He said that extra $600 helped him pay his mortgage and things would have been a lot harder without it. Caballero has since returned to work, but he knows a lot of people who aren’t, and who depend on that extra income to get by.
“We’re living check-to-check from day-to-day right now and the government was actually taking care of us in a way that was like almost like, almost made me proud,” said Caballero.
“It’s such a short-sighted thing to say, like, what’s going to happen over the next two years? This thing isn’t just going to go away,” said Caballero. “They keep going on, like, a month-by-month basis, or quarter-by-quarter basis. What happens when they shut us down again, there’s no extra assistance, we’re all getting the minimum, and no one can pay their bills at all? What happens then?”
A group of Oregon workers, along with Senator Ron Wyden held a Zoom meeting Friday afternoon to urge Congress to pass the Heroes Act, a coronavirus relief bill and stimulus package. It would extend the $600 weekly benefit and would also include funding for essential workers, as well as another round of stimulus checks.
“Look, the reality is, we understand that without that super-charged benefit, there are going to be thousands of Oregonians here in the next few days that aren’t going to be able to make rent, they aren’t going to be able to pay for their groceries,” said Wyden.
The Heroes Act still needs to be voted on by the Senate.
If you’re still waiting for unemployment benefits, don’t worry: you haven’t missed out on the additional $600 weekly benefit. If you qualified for benefits between March 29 and July 25, you’ll still get those funds when the Oregon Employment Department pays out your claim.