In an effort to help those Oregonians who fell through the financial cracks since the beginning of the pandemic, Oregon allocated $35 million to fund one-time payments of $500 for 70,000 people. The money ran out in less than three days.
And not everyone who needed the assistance got a check.
“This brought to me a reality of the magnitude of pain out there and suffering,” Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) said to OPB. “I knew it existed, but now I saw the faces. I saw the lines.”
The lines wormed their ways around banks and credit unions in summer heat. Many had to bring their small children with them – risking COVID exposure in lines too long for social distancing for the hope of a little bit of help from the government.
Following the depletion of Oregon’s relief fund, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) called for an additional direct stimulus payment from the federal government. “The state of Oregon does not have those types of resources,” Kotek said. “We’re going to keep doing everything we can to step up, but at the end of the day we need more money from the federal government.”
In the heat of each day, people became frustrated as waits lasted hours. At one Gresham credit union, someone pulled a gun according to Oregon Live. In southwest Portland, police had to arrest several people.
While in other lines, the people waiting took a more festive attitude – sharing food and keeping spirits light. Although in every case, the lines were simply too long to manage standard pandemic protocols.
All applicants for the payouts had to be Oregon residents with proof of residency, and had to provide proof of need. Most applicants are people who still haven’t been able to manage their way through the overworked, antiquated Employment Department system.