UPDATE — 25 May 2020: COVID-19 has impacted each of our lives in profound ways. In the past two months, together, we have made great sacrifices to keep our communities healthy and safe.This unprecedented situation has changed our lives forever.The health and economic challenges before us remain, as we strive to strike the delicate balance between personal freedoms and personal responsibility to safeguard one another from this disease. I have appreciated hearing the feedback and concerns you have shared and the trust you have placed in my office to help you during this difficult time.
Oregonians have shown a strong resolve to flatten the curve. On May 15th, we moved to a statewide opening of our retail industry with specific guidance in place. To date, 34 counties have been approved to enter Phase 1 of reopening under the Governor’s framework for building a safe and strong Oregon. As we navigate the future ahead, we must do so carefully, with respect and consideration towards each other. The virus will be with us for a long time. Social distancing, good hand hygiene, staying home when sick, and wearing face coverings when out in public are key to preventing a surge in infections and will continue to move us forward to physical and economic recovery.
In the District
In my role as the State Representative for House District 18, I am privileged to represent portions of Marion and Clackamas Counties. Marion County received the green light to enter Phase 1 of reopening beginning Friday May 22nd. While Marion County has had the second highest rate of infections per capita, we have worked hard to achieve this critical first step. As noted in the Marion County Commissioners May 21st newsletter: "Phase 1 of the approved community road-map allows reopening of several types of businesses and services, while keeping sanitation, physical distancing, face covering, and crowd size measures in place. Restaurants and bars, personal care services, and gyms are included in the list of businesses able to reopen in Phase 1, if all safety guidelines are followed. The latest information on reopening guidelines and plans within Marion County can be found here. Eventually, phases 2 and 3 of the plan will allow for increased gathering sizes and resumption of non-essential travel, nursing home and hospital visits, and additional seating at restaurants, bars, and other venues. The county is required to remain in Phase 1 for at least 21 days, and advancement to phases 2 and 3 will be allowed when public health monitoring indicates it is safe."
Clackamas County was approved to enter Phase 1 beginning Saturday, May 23rd. Clackamas County residents should also be proud of their efforts to "flatten the curve". For more information, Clackamas County's reopening dashboard can be found here.
Economic Relief for Small Businesses
The impacts of COVID-19 have been devastating to our small businesses. As shared in my previous newsletter, the Small Business Navigator has been set up by Business Oregon to help direct Oregon businesses to the resources they need.
Also, I have recently learned that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Small Business Administration (SBA) lone subsidies are not subject to the Corporate Activity Tax (CAT). More information can be found in the "Beyond the FAQ section of the CAT" page on the Oregon Department of Revenue's website This is good news and offers our small businesses a life-line they need to recover.
More COVID-19 Business/Unemployment resources can be found here.
Unemployment Insurance Update
Oregonians continue to experience frustration and financial hardship as some have waited as many as nine weeks for their unemployment claims to be processed. Please know, we hear you! Your frustrations are valid, and your needs are great. My staff and I have fielded dozens of constituent emails and phone calls on this issue. We are pressing for the answers that you deserve.
Legislators receive daily updates from various state agencies. Last Thursday, the Oregon Employment Department (OED) announced the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program has come online. This program is a 13-week extension of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits for those who have run out of benefits.The application for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is much simpler than for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and some individuals will be automatically moved into the program. The Extended Benefits Program is another UI extension that is currently being worked on that will hopefully be available in the next few weeks.
Claims are currently being processed for the PUA program, but there are challenges due to the program being new and the process being relatively manual. The OED is working with Google to be able to roll out an easier application process.
Although the department continues to process a vast number of claims, we know there is still a large number of claims that remain unpaid. We learned that it typically takes 6-8 weeks to train new employees to become claim takers, and while a significant number of new employees have been hired to process claims, there remains only a small number of people capable of tackling the most complex cases. OED is continuing to rapidly train new staff and has focused their experienced staff on the oldest claims. New staff is being directed to focus on incoming calls in the hope of reducing wait times. An automated system is being rolled out for the PUA program to notify individuals that their applications have been received within 1-2 weeks. PUA claims are typically being processed within 3-4 weeks of being filed and benefits under regular UI or PUA will generally be available for those returning to work part-time based on their earnings.
For those in areas that are now reopening, a fear of exposure is not a sufficient reason to not return to work. Those taking care of a sick family member, diagnosed with COVID-19, caring for a child due to school closures, or staying home on the recommendation of a medical professional will remain eligible for benefits.
Lastly, the Employment Department is in the process of hiring two government relations team members to communicate with legislators to help constituents navigate the UI system.
I appreciate the work my office staff are doing to help people from the District navigate the claims process. They have assisted many and their work will continue as long as there is a need.
In the "Virtual" Capitol
Much of our legislative work continues in a "virtual" format, rather than in person at the Capitol, which remains closed to the public.
On May 15th the Joint Legislative Emergency Board met for the second virtual meeting to approve a plan to distribute nearly $1.4 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds. After much debate the committee passed the funding distributions for local governments on a partisan vote.The source of the disagreement among committee members centered around the method used to distribute the funding.The full meeting can be viewed here and exhibits from the meeting are available here.
On May 20th the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis presented the June Economic and Revenue Forecast before a virtual joint meeting of the House and Senate Revenue Committees. Much of what was reported was expected, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the doors of our businesses and our economy. In the last two months, nearly 400,000 Oregonians have applied for unemployment, raising Oregon’s unemployment rate to a near depression level rate of 14%. A $2.7 billion shortfall exists for the 2019-21 biennium and Economists predict that between now and July 1, 2025, Oregon will have a $10.5 billion shortfall in tax revenues impacting future generations. You can view the State Economist's presentation to the committee online here.
Beginning Friday, May 22, and through the first weeks of June, the legislature will hold virtual Interim Committee meetings to be streamed live on OLIS. My committees:
You can view the committees live, access agendas, or watch the archived meetings by clicking on the links above.
There is a great deal of public policy to help and support Oregonians that the legislature must be called upon to consider in the days ahead. I remain eager and stand ready to work with my legislative colleagues to address the critical needs of Oregonians through a special session.
A Memorial Day Tribute
Although we are unable to gather personally today, the hearts of Americans across the country unite to recognize Memorial Day to honor military service members who died while serving our country. It is important to share the stories of our American heroes with present and future generations. President Reagan’s moving 1985 speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial still rings true today. Please join me for a moment of reflection by watching this video to remember and honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter and sharing your thoughts and concerns. Although great challenges lie ahead, I am confident that Oregon’s pioneer spirit will give us the strength to see us through to a brighter tomorrow.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and continue to show compassion and respect for one another.
UPDATE — 26 April 2020: Thursday last week, marked one month since Governor Brown issued the Stay Home, Save Lives, Executive Order 20-12. Although it may feel that time has stood still, we know that Oregonians have stood strong to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our communities. According to the state's epidemiologist, "our collective efforts are working". The Oregon Health Authority reports that strict social distancing may have averted more than 70,000 infections, including almost 1,500 hospitalizations, according to a new analysis released by state health officials.
Each of us have sacrificed and we all have our own stories to share about how we have navigated this challenging time. Job loss, isolation, caring for family and loved ones, working from home, educating our children, and the feelings of fear and anxiety that come with the sudden loss of what we once knew as "normal" has changed our lives forever.
Even with social distancing measures in place, my days continue to be very busy. My legislative work has taken on a virtual format of daily telephone calls with the Oregon Health Authority and the Governor's office to receive updates on pandemic related issues. My work also involves virtual meetings with community partners and leadership calls to work on policy proposals to address the current crisis in preparation for a special session. Personally reviewing and responding to constituent emails has also been a top priority.
I am grateful to our front-line workers. To our doctors and nurses, our grocery store clerks, our farmers, ranchers and truckers. Our first responders, and the countless essential workers who have tirelessly soldiered forward, allowing so many of us to stay home and save lives.
THANK YOU for being the light and hope during this difficult time.
This past week, the Joint Legislative Emergency Board met for a historic first-ever virtual meeting to allocate nearly 32.5 million in emergency funding to help Oregonians who have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The committee passed an emergency aid package to provide much needed relief for small businesses, front-line home health care workers, renters, rural hospitals, and survivors of domestic violence.
This bipartisan action taken by the Emergency Board is a good example of how we need to move forward to serve all Oregonians in need. However, more work must be done to help small businesses who are the backbone of our economy and should be included in the front-line recovery discussions.
A video recording of the meeting can be viewed from the OLIS Emergency Board page here.
When Can Oregon Start to Reopen?
This is a question on everyone's mind. State health officials report Oregon isn't ready to relax social distancing measures until the three conditions noted in the illustration below are met. This process will take time and patience for all of us to prevent a surge of infections. I anticipate reopening and recovery will occur in stages and through a regional approach, starting with the health care sector and then moving into other industries as are deemed safe.
Non-Urgent Medical Procedures to Resume May 1st With Safeguards in Place
Good news came on Thursday, with the Governor's announcement that she will lift her Executive Order 20-10 delaying non-urgent procedures for health care providers, as long as they can demonstrate they have met new requirements for COVID-19 safety and preparedness. Hospitals, surgical centers, medical offices, and dental offices that meet those requirements will be able to resume non-urgent procedures on May 1. Medical providers will need to demonstrate they have the ability to:
- Minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission to patients and healthcare workers
- Maintain adequate hospital capacity in the event of a surge in COVID-19 cases
- Support the health care workforce in safely resuming activities.
Under the framework, medical providers must also demonstrate that they have an adequate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) available for health care workers, following CDC guidance for the extended use or reuse of PPE. Hospitals must continue to report PPE supply levels daily to the Oregon Health Authority. Hospitals must also demonstrate adequate COVID-19 testing capacity when needed, including the ability to screen patients before non-urgent procedures, and follow strict infection control protocols.
The Oregon Health Authority released guidelines for how and when elective medical procedures can safety reopen. This guide provides a framework for how clinics and hospitals can again start providing these services.
Oregon Small Business Navigator
Many small businesses are struggling right now and wondering if they will be able to reopen when this pandemic is over. Resources are available through Business Oregon's Small Business Navigator.
- The Small Business Navigator has been set up by Business Oregon to help direct Oregon businesses to the resources they need.
- The navigator exists as both a website and a hotline with content that is updated daily.
- The hotline is open between 8 am and 5 pm and there is also an email contact.
- Over 150 voice mails and 600 emails have been responded to so far.
- Everyone receives a callback or an email response.
- Staff members are prepared each day to provide the most up to date information.
- Business Oregon is working with the Small Business Development Centers, the Secretary of State, the Department of Consumer and Business Services, the Employment Department, and the Oregon Health Authority to provide the latest information and guidance.
- The Small Business Development Centers have been valuable in providing assistance around accessing the federal programs.
- Business Oregon works to ensure that bilingual staff are available for the hotline and that resources are being translated into Spanish.
Unemployment Insurance Claims
Strict social distancing measures to protect public health have led to overwhelming job loss throughout Oregon and an unprecedented amount of unemployment insurance claims. The Oregon Employment Department has struggled to keep up with the high volume of new claims and its outdated system has resulted in various malfunctions that required updates to accommodate federal rule changes. Pre-COVID-19, the department had approximately 100 claim processors and has increased that number to over 500 claim processors and plans to add hundreds more to meet the high demand. Phone lines continue to be jammed and applicants are encouraged to file online. The Oregon Employment Department's COVID-19 webpage provides information and answers to frequently asked questions about how to file a claim, the timelines, as well as videos and other resources. For questions about a specific claim re-start errors or other problems, you can email the department at: OED_COVID19_Info@oregon.gov.
Given the high level of unemployment, I am pleased that the federal government passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The act includes $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion to establish a national testing program, $60 billion in disaster aid and $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans to small businesses to help them retain workers and make payroll. More information about the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act can be found here.
Emergency Coordination Center (ECC)
Within the Office of Emergency Management, the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) has established a new COVID-19 RESPONSE webpage. Here, you will find information and links to resources by topic, frequently asked questions, personal protective equipment (PPE), an interactive map of COVID-19 cases by county, and a daily statewide COVID-19 report. Information for anyone wanting to donate, sell, or volunteer services and goods to help in the response effort is available, as well as, general information to help guide us on how we can do our part to care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. I urge you to take a look at this helpful tool here.
Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter. I hope the information provided is helpful. Please don't hesitate to reach out if my office can be of assistance. In the days, weeks, and the months ahead, let's continue to stay united in our commitment to protect one another from this devastating disease with compassion and understanding.
Stay safe and stay healthy,
[17 March 2020]
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday, Governor Brown announced state wide actions for Social Distancing measures to help slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus throughout our communities. The Governor's Executive Order bans all statewide gatherings of more than 25 people and limits restaurants and bars to take-out and delivery only. Grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stores, and workplaces are exempt. The Executive Order will remain in effect for four weeks and will be evaluated as we move forward with additional information. You can view the Governor's Press Conference here and her Press Release here
We are all in this together. The biggest takeaway that healthcare experts emphasize is the importance of Social Distancing. Below you will find a visual of what Social Distancing looks like. I urge each of us to do our part to implement these measures in our daily lives. These steps will slow the transmission of the virus, protect our most vulnerable, help prevent increased pressure on our healthcare system, and ultimately, save lives.
Frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, as well as staying home if you are sick is critical. Working from home, if able, and remaining home as much as possible and spending less time in the public is highly encouraged. Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people in social and family settings is also recommended.
Below is a list of helpful resources and information available online:
As we navigate this challenging time, please exercise compassion and understanding for each other. Together, we will weather this storm.
State Representative House
Oregon's Christmas Tree District
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1418
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-484, Salem, OR 97301