PORTLAND — More than 7.5 million Americans no longer have access to supplemental unemployment benefits from the federal government, and in Oregon, tens of thousands of people stand to lose money.
Jodi Webster lost her job as a pharmacy technician 17 months ago. She described the situation as a “nightmare” and “living in fear.”
Webster said she has tried everything to find a job, applying and interviewing for positions in and outside of her field. She has called 211info for support and sought help from employment agencies. However, so far, she has not found employment.
“I think it’s my age, but I can’t prove it,” she said. “That’s the hardest thing because you don’t have control.”
Webster is not alone.
According to the Oregon Employment Department, 120,000 people collected unemployment benefits last week. Most will now see their weekly checks cut by $300 as the federal benefits expire.
“We are still estimating that unfortunately approximately 81,000 people may no longer receive benefits for weeks after Sept. 4, when those temporary federal benefit programs end,” OED Acting Director David Gerstenfeld said.
Some local business owners hope that means it will become easier to hire needed staff.
“(With) unemployment ending, a lot of people are ready to come back,” said Kalvin Myint, co-owner of Top Burmese restaurant in Northwest Portland. “[Pre-pandemic], we typically saw 60-100 applications. Now, six to about 15 applications would be a very high number.”
NBC News reports 10 million jobs are open nationwide. OED data shows nearly 100,000 of those are in Oregon.
However, experts believe the COVID-19 delta variant surge has fewer customers venturing out and fewer people getting hired.
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Some economists warn that could take time.
“Most of those many millions of people are not going to be able to find jobs immediately,” said Arin Dube, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The reality for some Oregonians like Jodi Webster is concerning.
“Am I going to be able to pay my rent? Am I going to be homeless?” Webster said, tearing up. “It takes a toll on your psyche. You feel like you’re not good enough. You tend to be hard on yourself. That nobody wants you. That you’re not capable.”
She said finding a job would mean much more to her than collecting a paycheck.”