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Wyden: Virus relief bill to send $3.3 billion to jobless Oregonians

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Friday the historic expansion of unemployment insurance he worked to get into the just-passed Senate coronavirus package will work out to an estimated $3.3 billion in much-needed help this year for unemployed Oregonians.

“This urgent crisis demands an urgent response and $3.3 billion for Oregon workers will help them throughout this year to pay the rent, buy groceries and cover medical expenses. That’s essential assistance for workers and will help to keep our economy functioning while Oregonians focus on staying safe by practicing social distancing and more,” said Wyden, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

“There’s much more work to be done to help Oregon and the entire country respond to this global pandemic, but this new federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program cements an essential building block of support for unemployed Oregonians,” Wyden said.

“This modernization of 20th century unemployment insurance takes into account 21st century realities of how work has transformed in Oregon and nationwide to include freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors in unemployment insurance,” he said. “With more than 3 million Americans losing their jobs overnight, this pandemic-provided funding was a must and I will continue to pull out all the stops as this public health crisis continues to generate an economic rip tide of damage to workers and small businesses.”

The $3.3 billion estimate is based on Oregon’s share of the $260 billion unemployment insurance program, the state’s share of the national population and what Oregon would receive between now and the end of the year if current unemployment projections hold.

The federally funded expansion to unemployment insurance includes:

  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which expands unemployment insurance to cover individuals who are not currently covered by traditional unemployment assistance, including:

o   Individuals who are unable to work because of coronavirus, whether due to illness, quarantine or child care needs

o   Individuals who are self-employed, including gig workers and freelancers

o   Part-time workers

o   Individuals with irregular work histories

  • $600 per week per worker in additional unemployment compensation, which will amount to full wage replacement for many workers. The average weekly benefit in Oregon is $422.
  • 13-week extension of unemployment insurance for anyone covered by traditional unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (39 weeks total).
  • Federal funding to states to eliminate the waiting week between applying for and receiving unemployment assistance.
  • 100% federal funding of work-share programs for states with programs already in place, and 50% federal funding of work-share programs for states that work with the Department of Labor to develop a new work-share plan. These programs help keep workers on payroll by using unemployment compensation to make up for wages lost through reduced hours.

The coronavirus package also includes:

  • An employee retention credit secured by Wyden as Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee to prevent further mass layoffs in Oregon and nationwide.
  • The Small Business Debt Relief Act, which was introduced by Wyden, U.S. Senators Chris Coons, D-Del., Ben Cardin, D-M.D., and colleagues last week, and will ensure every small business with a loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be relieved of their loan payments—including principal, interest, and fees—for the next six months. When the package becomes law, over 4,000 Oregon small businesses could qualify for this debt relief.
  • $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.
  • $350 billion for all new small business loans up to $10 million, with specific language prioritizing small businesses in underserved and rural markets and those owned by economically disadvantaged individuals, people of color, and women.
Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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