Benefits run out for more than 150 jobless in county

Time has run out for 153 Jackson County residents who exhausted their unemployment benefits last week.

The residents are part of the first wave of 3,000 Oregonians who have no extensions left after losing their jobs about a year and a half ago, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

The Employment Department estimates 500 Oregonians will run out of benefits each week, though they will get a three-month reprieve when another extension approved by the Legislature kicks in on Oct. 4.

Dempsey Haller, who was looking for jobs at the Medford employment office Wednesday, calculates he's only got a month left before his benefits run out.

"It's sad," he said. "But I know I'm not alone."

Haller said he's received only a few responses to dozens of resumes he's sent out since he lost his job 18 months ago as an executive director at a Chico, Calif., veterans housing facility.

The 58-year-old Medford resident said it's difficult getting any interest in the applications he's sent out, a sentiment shared by others at the employment office.

Waving his resume in the air, Steven Johansen said, "Nobody will look at this."

The 51-year-old Medford resident said he's sent out more than 300 resumes in just over a year since losing his job at a health care company.

He said he wants to work and doesn't like being unemployed, adding this is the first time in his life he has received the benefits.

"It gets to be really discouraging," said Johansen. "You just keep putting in applications."

Craig Spivey, spokesperson for the Employment Department, said those who are without benefits can continue to use the resources of his department to look for a job. They also can go to the to find information about shelters, food banks and other services.

The Employment Department and the governor's office are attempting to get further extensions in January to help unemployed workers.

"We are trying to raise awareness at the federal level," said Spivey.

Currently, an unemployed person could get up to 79 weeks of benefits if they qualified for all the extension programs offered, he said.

Employment officials say Oregon needs additional help because its unemployment rate is 11.9 percent. Jackson County's rate is 13.2 percent and Josephine County's is 14.9 percent.

In July 2008, Congress passed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which added 13 weeks of benefits on top of the 26-week regular claim. Since then, further additions to the EUC program, plus Oregon's continued high unemployment rate, meant unemployed Oregonians could receive a total of 79 weeks of benefits. On Sept. 5, those who qualified at the beginning of the extension programs exhausted all benefits.

In 2009, the Oregon Legislature passed the Oregon Emergency Benefits program to add 13 more weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted all extension programs. The program however, does not go into effect until Oct. 4.

With the clock ticking, many of Jackson County's unemployed worry about how they will pay their bills.

Larry Stauth said he's not sure about all the extensions the Employment Department has available to him, but he thinks he's only got another eight or nine weeks of benefits.

"I was told that after that, it is done," the 41-year-old Medford resident said.

He's worried that his $600 a month temporary health insurance program is about to expire and he will have to pay a higher rate.

"The cost will go up and the coverage will go down," said Stauth, who lost his job as a shipping and receiving clerk for a parts and service company for semitrailers.

His wife, Sherri, lost her job six months ago as an insurance agent.

Stauth said they need to have insurance because his wife has diabetes. His 20-year-old stepson works at Jack In The Box, but had his hours cut.

Stauth said he's been trying to juggle a part-time job as photographer at the Ashland Daily Tidings to supplement the $300 a week he receives from unemployment.

With so much at stake for his family, Stauth said he's particularly worried about running out of unemployment benefits with no signs the job market is improving.

"Everybody's saying it's getting better, but it isn't getting better here," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

Share This Story