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Money from federal disaster funds lasts only six weeks as Congress debates new plan.

Oregon has paid out $225 million to about 148,000 people under a new program of extra federal unemployment benefits.

Acting Director David Gerstenfeld said Wednesday, Sept. 30, that the Employment Department would pay benefits to 87,000 more people the rest of the week. The benefit is $300 per week for unemployed people who qualified between July 26 — when a $600-per-week federal program ended — and Sept. 5.

"Once those funds are exhausted, there aren't any additional benefits available," he told reporters on a weekly conference call.

Gerstenfeld said the agency met its target of the end of September to start payments.

Under federal regulations for the Lost Wages Assistance program, most people now receiving unemployment benefits must certify they remain eligible because of the coronavirus pandemic. They can do so by going to the website unemployment.oregon.gov.

Exceptions to self-certification are self-employed and gig workers who have applied for federal benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and workers enrolled in WorkShare programs, under which employers do much of the paperwork for the Employment Department.

Legislators on the Emergency Board, which makes budget decisions between sessions of the full Legislature, voted last week to approve $421.4 million that Oregon received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the extra benefits. They come from $44 billion in disaster funds that President Donald Trump diverted in an executive order Aug. 7.

Congress had approved extra $600-per-week benefits under the CARES Act signed March 27, but those benefits ended in Oregon on July 25. They were included at the insistence of Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the unemployment compensation system that is supported by employer taxes.

The Democratic-led House has unveiled a new coronavirus pandemic plan that would resume $600-per-week benefits through January. But it would reduce the total HEROES Act from the original price tag of $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion.

The new plan was put forth in an attempt to revive negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who represents the Trump administration.

A plan by the Republican majority in the Senate, which blocked it on a procedural vote Sept. 10, would limit added benefits to what a worker was making before the pandemic resulted in widespread shutdowns and layoffs.

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