Federal Pandemic Benefits Expire, Oregonians Anxious

The hits just keep coming, don’t they? As Oregon’s COVID-19 infection and death counts are skyrocketing, many Oregonians are now worried about their much-needed unemployment benefits coming to a close on Saturday, Sept. 4.   

Approximately 80,000 Oregonians that are currently receiving unemployment and pandemic benefits will be losing them this week. In other words, roughly two out of every three people in Oregon who were claiming unemployment in mid-August will be out a hefty chunk of change. 

While it’s been clear that the boosted benefits wouldn’t last forever, thousands of Oregonians are worried about the loss of that lifeline.  

So what can Oregonians expect to change on Saturday? 

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) 

The FPUC is the infamous $300 boost of federal funds to the state’s unemployment benefits. Approximately 120,000 Oregonians are looking to be losing that money come Saturday.  

For many people, that $300 per week was over half of their income — especially those whose health made returning to the workforce dangerous. For those who have mortgages and rent to pay, that’s a serious problem.   

Let’s also not ignore the fact that those who relied on that money to pay for childcare and food will also be left out in the dark.  

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)  

And what about freelance workers who don’t qualify for regular benefits? PUA was designed to give them a safety net during uncertain times — the uncertainty is still there, though the money won’t be.  

This article on JPR highlights the struggles of Briana Linden, a resident of Portland and teaching artist. Linden relied on gig work that was, for all intents and purposes, stopped when the pandemic began last year. That meant no funds to pay for basic needs for her or her family without PUA.   

“It’s hard to not think we’re going to have another shutdown,” said Linden. “And to not have benefits on top of all of those other stresses — honestly, I feel like I can’t even imagine how we’re going to keep doing this. It feels really, really debilitating.” 

Linden won’t be alone in that feeling soon — she and approximately 36,000 Oregonians will be getting hit hard on Saturday. 

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PUEC) 

This program extended benefits for the nearly 45,000 Oregonians whose regular benefits expired partway through the pandemic. Of those 45,000 people, the employment department says that roughly 11,000 people should be able to continue to receive PUEC benefits after Sept. 4.  

With the employment department still having extended call times and outdated systems, many people don’t even realize that their benefits will be ending.   

What Comes Next?  

The American Rescue Plan is aimed to improve the situation with, among other things, increased SNAP benefits and rent assistance. Yet, with eviction moratoriums set to end after being put off in July, things get a bit worrying. 

 According to OPB, the whole point of Senate Bill 278 was to prevent “a mass eviction event following July 1 when the state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire.” The question now is whether or not it simply puts off the inevitable.  

If you need help locally, the Community Services Consortium is a good place to start. We spoke to their Director recently, and they have programs for just about anything you could need, as well as connections to other organizations to cover what they currently don’t.  

If you need help with paying bills, finding a job, locating vaccinations, etc., take a look at the American Rescue Plan on the state website. Alternatively, if you’re one of the many Oregonians anxious about the end of eviction protections, check out our article here on some resources that may help you.  

By Ethan Hauck