Oregon lawmakers revise proposal for stimulus payments to low-income workers, call for $600 checks
Oregon Democrats are set to introduce new legislation Tuesday that would provide a one-time payment of $600 to low-income Oregon workers.
Workers who in 2020 received the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax break for low- and moderate-income workers and families, would automatically receive the stimulus payments.
The proposal would send smaller checks to a larger number of workers than previous stimulus payment proposals floated by the Legislature. Lawmakers in 2021 had proposed sending as much as $2,000 payments to workers who stayed on the job during the pandemic, and they revived that idea again at the start of the current legislative session.
Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D-Portland, who is co-sponsoring the new bill, said that about 260,000 workers would be eligible. Lawmakers also plan to set aside up to $15 million to provide similar payments for undocumented workers who weren’t allowed to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit because of their immigration status.
The bill will be introduced in the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, and a public hearing on the bill is expected later this week, Valderrama said. The total cost of the bill is expected to be about $180 million.
“We’re focusing on our lowest-income communities who are really disproportionately impacted by a skyrocketing cost of living right now,” Valderrama said.
The new bill will replace a separate proposal introduced earlier this session that would have directed payments of up to $1,000 to workers in medium- to very high-risk occupations.
Valderrama said lawmakers ditched the original bill because requiring workers to apply for the money could lead to payments being delayed until 2023 or 2024.
In contrast, the new proposal would direct the Department of Revenue to automatically issue payments to eligible workers. Checks would be delivered by the end of July at the latest.
“The previous iteration wouldn’t allow for checks to be received until 2023 or 2024 and it really wasn’t acceptable,” Valderrama said. “This new vehicle provides for a cleaner, direct approach to getting the resources out in a more timely manner.”
The proposal is a pared-down iteration of a bill that Democratic lawmakers floated last spring that would have set aside federal stimulus money to pay essential workers up to $2,000 in stimulus payments and provided a $1,200 payment to unemployed Oregonians who returned to work in frontline jobs by last fall.
At $600, Valderrama said the payments in the current proposal would not be subject to state and federal income taxes.
“I’m very confident that a version of this, if not this iteration, will pass this session,” Valderrama said. “We continue to have strong support in both chambers.”