Oregon Worker Relief Fund to Distribute Second Round of Payments to Further Reduce Inequities in Oregon’s Pandemic Recovery

The payments bring crucial relief as the federal government continues to exclude many Oregonians from federal pandemic support and unemployment aid based on immigration status.

Sept. 30, 2021

The Oregon Worker Relief Fund (OWRF) — a program that provides financial relief to Oregonians who have lost wages due to the pandemic but are denied unemployment insurance and federal stimulus relief due to their immigration status — will issue second payments to individuals who have already received a one-time temporary disaster relief payment through the program. First-time applicants who have not yet received OWRF support will also be able to receive relief. 

The second round of payments was made possible in part by a $5.5 million contribution from the City of Portland to Oregon Worker Relief (OWR) for its three funds: the Relief Fund, the Quarantine Fund and the Small Enterprise Fund. The City’s allocation will go toward narrowing the gap between the amount of unemployment insurance available to most people during the pandemic—up to $50,000 by September 2021—compared to a single maximum $1,720 payment received by some of Portland’s undocumented essential workers through the Oregon Worker Relief program.

The households of the 110,000 undocumented people who call Oregon home have been systematically excluded from unemployment insurance and federal stimulus funds, which have been a lifeline for other Portland households during the pandemic. On top of preexisting economic disparities, these households deal with a host of other inequities. While 6% of all Oregonians lack health insurance, for undocumented Oregonians that number is astronomically higher at 47%. It comes as no surprise that Latinx Oregonians—who make up about 80% of the state’s undocumented community members— account for 20.6% of COVID-19 cases despite comprising only 13.4% of the total population. 

“These payments are more necessary than ever as the Delta variant continues to destabilize Portland’s immigrant and BIPOC households already at a disadvantage due to historic inequities,” said Isa Peña, Interim Executive Director of Causa and Executive Committee member of Oregon Worker Relief. “The need is also far greater than what is available in funds. That’s why we’re  hoping the State will be able to allocate a significant amount of American Rescue Plan Act dollars to Oregon Worker Relief at the next Emergency Board or Short Session. We need to allow Oregon to make an equitable recovery from the pandemic and investing in our community is an essential way to  begin to undo historic inequities and build a more inclusive Oregon.”  

“Most Oregonians received a second federal stimulus check due to the length of the pandemic. Undocumented workers did not,” stated Reyna Lopez, Executive Director of PCUN. “This is why a second payment from OWRF is the right thing to do. This means that those same Oregonians excluded from the second federal stimulus check can continue to pay for things like utility bills, groceries, and medication. This pandemic continues to force us to change our expectations about when and how it will end – and we must be responsive to that.”

Starting on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, individuals who already received OWRF assistance will be eligible to apply again by calling 1-888-274-7292 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Sunday, October 3, OWRF will host a community forum from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, to answer questions about OWRF and the second-time payments via livestream on the Alivio Laboral de Oregon Facebook page in Spanish and Indigenous languages. Additional information about the program’s eligibility requirements and application process is available at workerrelief.org / aliviolaboral.org for.

About Oregon Worker Relief:

Oregon Worker Relief is a public-private partnership designed and implemented by directly impacted communities and more than 100 community based organizations. To date, the organization has efficiently and effectively distributed over $80 million in pandemic relief to immigrant Oregonians excluded from federal safety net programs based on immigration status. OWR’s Small Enterprise Fund provides relief to micro, very small and small businesses in the state, and its Quarantine Fund offers financial support to undocumented workers who must quarantine due to COVID-19.