BUSINESS ROUNDUP: X-mas benefits expiration, waiting week waiver ends, help for homeowners and restaurants

Oregon Employment Department. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

There’s a lot going on business. To help keep you up to speed, the Salem Reporter has launched a semi-regular roundup of business-related items that includes new business openings, locations, grant opportunities and others. 

To suggest an item, reach out to reporter Jake Thomas at [email protected]

CUTOFF FOR CHRISTMAS: An estimated 70,000 Oregonians receiving unemployment benefits could see their weekly checks halt after Christmas, according to Pat O’Connor, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department.

Unemployment benefits normally last 26 weeks and were extended to 39 weeks by the federal pandemic relief package passed by Congress.

While Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9% in October from 7.9% in September, it’s still unusually high and is expected to rise as a result of Gov. Kate Brown’s two-week shutdown order that went into effect last week. Brown, and others, have called for Congress to pass another relief package.

O’Connor didn’t have a breakdown of how many people locally could see their unemployment run dry after Christmas. But in an email he said Marion County has 6,066 continuing claims for benefits, 6.2% of all those statewide.

WAITING WEEK WAIT ENDS: Oregonians receiving unemployment benefits can expect a little more money in their pockets. The Oregon Employment Department announced Monday, Nov. 23, that it will begin paying the “waiting week” for unemployed Oregonians receiving benefits.

People seeking benefits must wait one week after losing their jobs before receiving benefits. Congress eliminated the waiting week earlier this year, but the Oregon Employment Department has been slow to make the payments.

The department estimates that 246,300 Oregonians have been issued payments today totaling $176 million. But the department will have to process other payments manually, meaning a delay for an estimated 170,000 people.

The extra weekly check with be fatter. Those whose waiting week fell between March 29 and July 25 will receive an additional $600 that the federal government temporarily tacked on to unemployment payments.

HOMEOWNER HELP: The Oregon Housing and Community Services Department is offering help to homeowners having a hard time paying their mortgage because of the pandemic. Through its Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative program, the department is providing one-time payments directly to mortgage servicers to cover missed payments.

To be eligible, homeowners must have missed mortgage payments after Jan. 1 and be experiencing a hardship. Their mortgage payment must be no more than 45% of their monthly household income.

The $20 million program is funded through the U.S. Treasury Department. More information on the program and how to apply can be found on the Oregon Housing and Community Services’ website.

FREE RESTAURANT ADVICE: The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and Oregon’s Small Business Development Center Network are offering free consulting to restaurant owners distressed by the pandemic. Restaurants have been particularly affected by pandemic restrictions, including the most recent “freeze” that went into effect last week and again stopped sit-down dining.

The Oregon Restaurant Covid Assistance Program was created following a survey of restaurant operators earlier this fall. The survey found that restaurant owners could use help with marketing and customer relations, financial operations, menu planning, human resources, loyalty programs, online sales, takeout services, landlord negotiations and coping with the pandemic.

The program is funded with federal pandemic relief money and the consulting help is confidential and free. More information or to sign up can be found here

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

SUPPORT SALEM REPORTER’S JOURNALISM – A monthly subscription starts at $5. Go HERE. Or contribute to keep our reporters and photographers on duty. Go HERE. Checks can be sent: Salem Reporter, 2925 River Rd S #280 Salem OR 97302. Your support matters.