New Oregon program will issue $500 relief checks starting Wednesday
Oregon residents facing financial hardship from the COVID-19 crisis are eligible for $500 one-time checks in a program beginning Wednesday, Aug. 19.
The $35 million plan created by the Legislature will use federal coronavirus relief funds to issue checks to up to 70,000 residents. The program is separate from regular state and federal unemployment programs.
Checks are available by visiting one of 150 locations of participating financial institutions and filling out an application. If approved, a cashier's check or in some cases, cash, will be issued on the spot.
Participants include Umpqua Bank, Columbia Bank and members of the Northwest Oregon Credit Union Association.
To be eligible, applicants must:
• Be a current resident of Oregon and age 18 or older.
• Be able to provide documents, such as a driver's license, that prove they are currently living in Oregon.
• Attest that they are experiencing severe financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the Gov. Kate Brown's "Stay Home, Save Lives" executive orders issued in March.
• Have earned $4,000 per month or less, pre-tax, prior to their income loss due to COVID-19.
• Not received all unemployment payments they are owed.
People seeking more information on the program can go to the state website or dial 211 and ask for information on the "Emergency Relief Check Program."
The program requires in-person visits to participating banks and credit unions in order to reduce the risk of fraud in the program. While applying, applicants must adhere to public health rules, including wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said in a joint statement announcing the program that it was intended to be a faster way for Oregonians in need to receive relief funds amid a backlog caused by more than 400,000 people filing for unemployment since March.
The Employment Department has experienced long delays — in some cases months — in getting aid to applicants.
"The governor's order prevented thousands of COVID-19 cases and saved hundreds of lives," Courtney said in the statement. "But it also impacted many people's income. With such a huge jump in unemployment, some people are still waiting for their benefits. We know $500 isn't going to solve all of these problems, but if we can help a family buy groceries for the month, pay for child care, or cover an unexpected repair, it's worth it."
Kotek spokesman Danny Moran said each branch of an institution is limited in the number of checks it can issue.
"There will be a daily capacity limit in the sense that each branch can only take so many in-person applicants per day," Moran said. "Those who developed the program went to great lengths to ensure there was statewide representation in all regions of the state. We're hopeful this will provide an opportunity for Oregonians in all corners of the state to access the funds."
Residents are urged to check with the banks and credit unions that they are involved in the program and that walk-in service is available. Some branches may require an appointment to ensure social distancing and room capacity limits are met.
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