As the COVID-19 crisis continues, many people are feeling the effect of prolonged underemployment or unemployment. The federal government’s coronavirus relief program that gave people an additional $600 each week in unemployment payments ended in July, leaving many people wondering how they are going to make ends meet without the extra funding.
Even though Congress hasn’t approved a new aid package to help citizens, state officials are looking for ways to assist families who need financial help. Oregon, for example, announced a one-time relief payment for qualified residents.
The Oregon Emergency Check Fund allows one payment of $500 to eligible workers, which includes anyone who:
- Is 18 years of age or older
- Is a current Oregon resident
- Can provide proof of identity
- Is experiencing severe financial hardship due to the “Stay Home, Save Lives” orders from the state government that have kept many businesses closed
- Earned $4,000 month or less pre-tax prior to income loss due to COVID-19
- Has not received all payments for unemployment assistance, has been denied unemployment or have never applied for unemployment
Residents quickly lined up outside participating banks and credit unions to apply for the relief checks. Some were skeptical at first after seeing the announcement online.
“I didn’t think it was real at all,” Stephanie Roberts told The Oregonian after seeing the announcement on Facebook. “But, I thought it was worth a try.”
It took her two hours to get through the line, but she was able to get her $500 payment, which she said she would use to pay her rent and electric bill.
Local news organizations like the Curry Coastal Pilot tried to get the word out and cut through the confusion:
Rogue Credit Union is one of eight credit unions that teamed up with the State of Oregon to provide assistance for people impacted by COVID-19. The credit union is helping members and non-members apply for $500 payments. https://t.co/54zlFSy4no
— Curry Coastal Pilot (@currypilot) August 19, 2020
The Oregon legislature passed the relief bill in July and started distributing the funds on Aug. 19. The funds from the program will assist up to 70,000 state residents. The Oregonian reported that at the end of the first day, state officials said more than 12,000 payments were distributed. The state will continue to be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.