Grocery and liquor store workers on the front lines of the pandemic (copy)

Dimitri Miras and Dustin Anderson wear face masks and gloves and stand behind a plastic barrier while working at the Cedar Mill Liquor Store in Portland in April 2020.

Oregon Democrats are reviving a proposal to provide essential workers who stayed on the job through the pandemic with a one-time stimulus payment of up to $1,000.

Workers in what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration classifies as medium- to very high-risk occupations would be eligible for the bonus if they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week in person from April to December 2020, made less than $22 an hour or $42,900 per year, and haven’t already received a bonus or hazard pay from the state for working during the pandemic.

Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D-Portland, who is co-sponsoring the proposal, said during a House committee meeting Tuesday that lawmakers were still seeking clarification from the Oregon Employment Department on the number of workers who could qualify, but an initial analysis had identified at least 230,000 eligible workers.

“In these circumstances where they were asked to show up on the lines, where we called them heroes, our low-wage workers, the hardest hit, did not receive additional compensation or hazard pay for showing up to these jobs,” Valderrama said. “This bill solves that by providing a one-time appreciation payment to some of our lowest wage workers in the highest risk places.”

The proposal is a pared-down version of a bill that Democratic lawmakers floated last spring that would have set aside federal stimulus money to pay essential workers up to $2,000 in stimulus payments and a provide a $1,200 payment to unemployed Oregonians who returned to work in front-line jobs by last fall.

Lawmakers were unable to push that bill over the finish line during a busy legislative session last year, but Democrats vowed at the time to take up the initiative again in 2022.

Funding for the stimulus payments could come from federal American Rescue Plan funds and state general fund money, Valderrama said. She told the committee Tuesday that that funding could support payments of up to $1,000.

The payments would be distributed by the Oregon Worker Relief Fund, which has provided roughly $100 million to Oregon’s immigrant communities during the pandemic through a combination of state and local funding and donations.Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.

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