Checks running out for some jobless Oregonians

EUGENE — State Employment Department officials say roughly 3,000 Oregon residents have exhausted their unemployment benefits, with the final extensions expiring last week.

But additional help is headed their way.

Oregon’s unemployment rate has been close to 12 percent for the past five months. Workers who have lost their jobs are entitled to unemployment pay for 26 weeks, on top of which there have been various state and federal extensions that can increase the total to 79 weeks.

The state and federal governments granted the extensions to lessen the pain of the recession.

The weekly benefit is based on a person’s pay over the previous 12 months, and ranges from $115 a week to $493 a week.

As of Sept. 5, about 3,000 workers who qualified at the very beginning of the special extension programs exhausted all their benefits. The aid will expire for about 500 more residents statewide this week.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature passed the Oregon Emergency Benefits program, which provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits to those who have exhausted all other extensions. It takes effect Oct. 4.

State leaders also hope Congress will provide another round of extensions, said Craig Spivey, spokesman for the Employment Department.

Spivey said Employment Department workers have been staying in touch with those who are losing benefits, urging them to intensify their job searches.

Though Oregon’s jobless picture hasn’t been getting grimmer in recent months, it hasn’t been getting better, either. State economists don’t expect a hiring surge until the third quarter of 2010 and don’t think the state will return to pre-recession employment levels until 2013.

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