Senators press Oregon Employment Dept in 2nd day of hearings


Those waiting for benefits may qualify for a new Trump administration program offering an extra $300 a week

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Lawmakers continued to press the Oregon Employment Department about why thousands of people are still waiting for unemployment benefits during a second day of hearings on Wednesday.

Those waiting to receive benefits are also now hoping to qualify for a new Trump administration program offering an extra $300 a week.

States have to front 25% of the cost of those added benefits and most, including Oregon, applied for and received FEMA funds to do so.

While Oregon won’t have to tap into the state trust fund, Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld said Oregon is still weeks away from handing out payments. Six other states have already started distributing the added benefits.

“Our goal is to start making those payments by late September,” Gerstenfeld said. “We don’t have definite dates because we’re still figuring out what’s needed to work with the State Treasury, with FEMA, with others to implement this.”

Two other programs are currently in the works: the so-called “waiting week” payments to cover income lost while someone is applying for unemployment and Oregon Senate Bill 1701.

The latter was passed during the Aug. 10 special session. It allows some people to retain benefits even when they start to earn money again from a job.

Gerstenfeld said “waiting week” payments could start by November while the new bill could go into effect by December. The acting director explained that all three programs can’t be initiated simultaneously due to the OED’s computer system. New programs have to be coded in manually to calculate benefits without affecting current programs.

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