Oregon lawmakers won’t pay for ‘essential worker’ stimulus this year

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Oregon Democrats said Monday they would not fund an additional stimulus bill for essential workers in the state this session. They have pledged to revive the idea during the short Legislative Session in 2022, but it is not clear that there will be a ready source of funding for the proposal next year.

Last week, 23 legislative Democrats signed to co-sponsor Bill 3409, which reportedly spent $ 450 million from Oregon in federal stimulus funds to pay bonuses and a return-to-work incentive to thousands of frontline workers.

These workers could have received up to $ 2,000 in stimulus funds if they had worked during the pandemic, or $ 1,200 if they returned to work after being unemployed during the pandemic.

But as lawmakers rush to complete their regular legislative session this week, Democrats who control the body say they will delay the idea until next year.

“Critical workers risked their lives every day during the pandemic. We must continue to put working families first as we recover from this short-term health and economic crisis – and rebuild our economy in the long term, ”said House Speaker Tina Kotek in a statement. press release Monday. “That’s why my top priority for the rest of Oregon’s share of the US bailout federal dollars will be additional support for frontline workers in 2022.”

Oregon received $ 2.6 billion in state government funding from the $ 1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill approved by Congress in March. Kotek’s office did not say how much federal stimulus money lawmakers expect to be still available when they return to Salem next year.

State union leaders pushed for additional stimulus payments this month, arguing that frontline workers deserve a reward for staying at work despite the risk of COVID-19 infection. And some Democratic lawmakers have argued that a back-to-work incentive would help tackle the labor shortage Oregon employers face.

Legislative Republicans had opposed the payments, arguing that it made no sense to pay more stimulus money when the unemployed received a weekly bonus of $ 300 in federal compensation. They complained that the bonus was preventing some potential hires from working and that Gov. Kate Brown had not done enough to reopen schools and make it easier for parents to return to work.

– Mike Rogoway | mrogoway@oregonian.com | Twitter: @rogoway |

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