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Legislature considers $500 relief checks to ease unemployment wait

Oregonians still waiting for unemployment benefits could see some temporary relief.

Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney have proposed $500 relief checks to people who have not yet received their unemployment benefits, according to a press release from the Oregon legislative leaders.

Kotek and Courtney said they will ask for $35 million from the CARES Act coronavirus relief fund to help 70,000 people still waiting for their first check from the Oregon Employment Department.

“This isn’t a fix, this a Band-Aid,” Courtney said in the release. “We need to get cash into the hands of Oregonians who have been waiting on their benefits for months.”

The proposal would direct the Department of Administrative Services to develop a simple application process for people who have been waiting for OED to process a backlog of unemployment claims.

The proposed one-time payments would not be tied to future benefits. Those who have filed for the Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Assistance Unemployment programs and who have yet to receive benefits would qualify.

House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner applauded the proposal. “For the thousands of Oregonians still waiting for unemployment checks, the wait has been excruciating and unacceptable,” she said in a press release from House Democrats.

The Legislative Emergency Board plans to meet Tuesday to consider the relief proposal.