On Dec. 28, about 20,000 Oregonians, including about 150 Crook County residents, finally lost the ability to collect Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) payments from the federal government.

The program was initiated during the recent recession, when unemployment rates skyrocketed, as a way to help sustain people who needed more long-term help. In Oregon, a person is typically allotted 26 weeks of payments before they are expected to rejoin the workforce.

Given the difficulties many faced finding work, the federal government offered four tiers worth of additional payments good for up to 56 more weeks. To continue into each following year, Congress had to reauthorize the program, which they had until now.

We believe this is the right decision at this juncture. Yes, 150 local residents are now left without an income as are 20,000 people statewide, but this program cannot be expected to continue until every last person is once again employed.

The program was designed as a bridge during a dire situation where people were truly unable to find work. Now, Crook County has joined an economic recovery that began at least a year ago nationwide. Jobs have become more plentiful, as the local unemployment rate has dropped 2 percentage points in the past year, and certain industries have gained more than 100 jobs.

We understand why Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are reluctant to say Oregon can now do without the EUC program. Nobody wants to suddenly cut off thousands of peoples’ income.

However, this is hardly a surprise to people who receive the benefits. The Oregon Employment Department has committed to regularly reaching out to people whose benefits are set to end, in an effort to help them re-enter the workforce.

Furthermore, the extending the benefits could leave unemployment and the economy worse off in the long run. As Rep. Greg Walden pointed out, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has determined that an extension could lengthen unemployment and increase the federal budget deficit by $25 billion.

We equate this situation to ripping off the bandage. Yes, it will cause some initial pain for some, but we are no longer dealing with a major wound — not even in Crook County. The recovery is here. It is time to proceed as such and move forward without a program designed for tougher times.

Contract Publishing

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