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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

ETA News Release: [06/05/2009]
Contact Name: Jennifer Kaplan
Phone Number: (202) 693-5052
Release Number: 09-628-SEA

U.S. Labor Department announces release of $28.5 million in unemployment insurance modernization incentive funds to Oregon

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor has certified for release $28,524,880 in unemployment insurance (UI) modernization incentive funds to the state of Oregon. Oregon qualified for the funds available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) by allowing workers to use their more recent earnings to qualify for benefits.

"Oregon has updated its UI program to better meet the needs of the 21st century workforce," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "By using recent wages when determining eligibility for benefits, Oregon enables relatively new entrants to the workforce to receive the assistance they need and deserve when they lose their jobs."

The Oregon Employment Department can use the funds to pay unemployment benefits or, if appropriated by the legislature, for administering its unemployment insurance program or delivering employment services.

"Together, the state and federal government have made a difference in the lives of 6,000 unemployed Oregonians," said Gov. Ted Kulongoski. "With the changes in state law and federal funds, these Oregonians will better be able to make ends meet as they seek employment. This joint effort will also help the state provide more efficient and comprehensive unemployment insurance services to every Oregonian who needs them."

"This economy has been just as hard on workers new to the workforce as it has been on those with 25 years under their belt," said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. "With some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, these new unemployment insurance rules help those with less work experience to collect benefits when they need them. This funding will help folks weather this storm and is the kind of quick relief the recovery legislation was meant to provide."

"Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are currently looking for work, but with a 12 percent unemployment rate, jobs are hard to come by," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley. "Extending unemployment insurance is absolutely critical to helping families get by as we work to turn our economy around."

"I'm pleased that the Department of Labor has recognized Oregon's work in updating its unemployment insurance program," said U.S. Rep. David Wu, who represents the 1st district of Oregon. We currently have the second highest unemployment in the nation, and Yamhill County's unemployment rate is even higher than the state's overall rate. Oregonians are hurting, and I am looking forward to seeing these funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act help Oregonians get back on their feet."

"As a father of five who has been through tough times, I understand that this unemployment insurance is a lifeline to Oregonians who have lost their jobs," said U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, who represents the 5th district of Oregon. "Just today, 125 jobs were lost in Stayton. We've seen similar job losses across the district, from a factory in Dallas to school teachers in Salem. This funding is critical to helping local families make ends meet and keep food on the table while the economy recovers."

The Recovery Act made a total of $7 billion available in UI modernization incentive payments to states that include certain eligibility provisions in their UI programs. Each state can qualify for a share of those funds by showing that its law includes those provisions. Oregon's approved application for this first third of the state's share will be posted at the department's Employment and Training Administration Web site at http://www.doleta.gov/recovery/. The approved applications of other states also can be found at this site.