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Last in line: Oregon quickly exhausts $500 COVID-19 hardship relief check funds

'The difference between being able to eat or not'

(Update: all funds distributed; comments from mother who did not receive check)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After two days of long lines at credit unions and banks across the state, the word came Friday that all of the state's $500 COVID-19 emergency hardship relief checks have been distributed or dedicated.

NewsChannel 21's Alec Nolan was at a SELCO Credit Union Friday morning when the news came, and a woman in line was asked to hold a sign, saying she was the last in line before that credit union's allocations ended.

We spoke with dozens in line who said they'll be using the money for rent, groceries, and some just looking to keep their water running.

After the distributions ended, we spoke with SELCO's, Justin Graham, to learn more about the qualification process.

"I would like to be able to give the money to anybody, but there are some stipulations for the state program," Graham said. "Proof of address is hard for some people, especially if they've lost their current residence."

The majority of those we spoke with Friday morning said the state's program was a step in the right direction, but there were many who did not receive a check, like Jessica Heard.

She was just a few minutes too late.

"This check is the difference between being able to eat every day or not," Heard said. "I have kids, and right now is a really hard time."

Thousands were helped by the relief fund, but there are thousands more like Heard who are struggling to stay afloat.

Here's the news release from the Oregon Legislature.

All Funds For $500 Emergency Relief Checks

Have Been Dedicated to Oregonians in Need

Unprecedented program to wind down starting today

As the $500 Emergency Relief Check Program enters its third day, all 70,000 available payments have been distributed or dedicated to Oregonians in need.

The program will wind down starting Friday morning. Financial institutions who are participating in this unique public-private partnership will have a final funding allotment cap for the day and will not be accepting new walk-in applications once they reach the allotment cap. Previously scheduled appointments will continue through the end of the month, but new appointments will not be made.

“I want to thank the financial institutions that have stepped up in an emergency and are continuing to work so hard to get money into the hands of desperate Oregonians,” Senate President Peter Courtney said. “We’ve said from the beginning that we know this is not enough money to help all of those in need. But we had to take action to get money directly to people as quickly as possible and this is a tremendous example of Oregonians pitching in to help our most vulnerable.”

“These last couple days have put a spotlight on just how dire the need is all across the state,” House Speaker Tina Kotek said. “We have to get more money to help people. The federal government has the ability to make direct stimulus payments to Americans whose lives are in jeopardy and are not doing so. I find this incredibly frustrating and disappointing.”

After two days, the program delivered funds to payments to nearly 40,000 eligible Oregonians in need. On the first day of the program, 62% of $500 payments went to zip codes outside the Portland Metropolitan Area.

The offices of the House Speaker and Senate President will follow up with more detailed information and data about the program as soon as it is available, including which geographic locations were served.


Earlier story:

Thousands line up statewide; funds going fast

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Hundreds of Central Oregonians stood in long lines in the warm summer sun Thursday to collect very much welcomed $500 coronavirus relief funds.

Most people standing in line at the SELCO Community Credit Union on Bend's Eastside, all facing financial hardships, said they had waited two or three hours to collect a one-time payment of $500 through the state's new emergency relief program.

"It's a long line but I get it," said Bend resident Brendon Ralph. "There's a lot of people that need the help and need some money."

That SELCO was just one of the 150 bank and credit locations across Oregon where Oregonians can receive the checks, as long as they qualify.

In order to be eligible, people must:

  • Show their permanent Oregon residence
  • Be 18 years or older
  • Have earned $4,000/month or less before the pandemic hit
  • Prove they've been hit hard financially either directly or indirectly to the governor's executive orders

One representative with SELCO told NewsChannel 21 people who did not file for unemployment can qualify, as long as they can attest to experiencing a negative financial impact, such as a cutback on hours at their job.

That includes Ashley Finch from La Pine, who told NewsChannel 21 her boyfriend "went from five days a week of work to two days a week, and just recently got a second job."

Ralph said he falls into that last category as well.

"I personally still haven't received my stimulus check, and I couldn't get the unemployment to work because the website crashed five times on me," he said.

One source close to the program said the 10 participating banks and credit unions handed out 13,000 checks Wednesday, accounting for $6.5 million of the allotted $35 million on the first day of the program.

By late Thursday, the SELCO representative said there are about 34,000 applications left, which was fewer than half of the 70,000 applications available.

"Once they're gone, they're gone," said Carissa Grimes, manager of Bend's Eastside SELCO.

Grimes said her location cut checks for around 300 people Wednesday and Thursday combined.

She said the people they helped all shared different versions of the same story - the money is much-needed.

"Some of the comments we've had is, you know, 'My car was being repossessed today,'" Grimes said. "'This is going to allow me to keep my vehicle.'"

Todd Hofmann, another La Pine resident, said, "This $500 is probably going to be used for groceries and necessary medical items that we need at home."

Finch said, "Oh it's going toward bills, food. I've got two teenagers at home that are not in school, you know. Stuff adds up quick."

Officials tell NewsChannel 21 this service will only be available at participating banks and credit unions Monday through Friday. Appointments and walk-ins will not be taken on weekends.

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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.

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