Oregonians who have exhausted their unemployment payments will get a temporary reprieve. Gov. Kitzhaber announced today that he has signed a pair of bills extending benefits for up to 26 weeks. The legislation is a lifeline for tens of thousands of Oregonians whose benefits would otherwise expire this year.
Specifically Senate Bill 637 would allow the state to tap into $225 million in federal funds, extending benefits for some 50,000 Oregonians whose benefits would otherwise dry up before the end of the year. An additional bill, SB 638 would tap into the state’s unemployment trust fund, providing some $26 million to keep afloat nearly 18,000 Oregon workers whose benefits are set to expire next month.
Oregon’s unemployment rate has been fixed at roughly 10 percent for more than a year. In Central Oregon it is significantly higher. Deschutes County reported that more than 14 percent of the workforce remains idled. In Crook County the situation is worse. There, the state pegged unemployment at 17 percent in January, down roughly one percentage point from last year at the same time.