UPDATE — 29 March 2020: Jody Christensen, Director of Regional Solutions for the Mid-Valley region, shared several resources to assist our businesses, workers, cities & counties, and non-profit organizations this past weekend. If you have difficulty accessing the resources or navigating them, please reach out to my office and we can request additional guidance from Jody and her staff.
Business Oregon has translated its fact sheet on COVID-19 Business Survival Tips into Spanish.
The National Main Street Center is offering a series of webinars to support local businesses and communities. Sessions will cover national policy and best local practices related to Main Street America during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Oregon Health Authority has a fact sheet for the restaurants, food carts and other food service operations that remain open for takeout and delivery service.
The Oregon Department of Revenue has guidance on COVID-19 tax relief options, with information on the personal and corporate income tax and the corporate activity tax.
The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network has consolidated COVID-19 Disaster Assistance Funding into one online location. The page is updated daily as information changes and new funding programs are identified.
The U.S. Small Business Association and the Outdoor Industry Association are holding a webinar at 10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday, March 31. Webinar details and registration is available here.
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership has COVID-19 resources, including information on managing supply chains, business continuity and financial resources.
The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees.
The State of Oregon has created a simple business quiz that can help owners determine if their business is essential for purposes of complying with Governor Kate Brown's recent executive order.
The Small Business Administration has approved Oregon’s request for a disaster declaration, making Oregon businesses eligible for favorable loans under the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
The United States Department of Labor has provided guidelines for employers on implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Materials include a fact sheet for employers, a fact sheet for employees, and a Questions and Answers document.
Employment and Worker Resources:
The Oregon Employment Department is working hard to ensure people have access to the most current guidance for employers, workers, and job seekers who may be impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Information continues to change daily, including where and how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility requirements. Please visit the department's COVID-19 employment-related web page for the latest information.
The Oregon Employment Department continues to respond to questions related to layoffs, work-hour reductions and unemployment claims. As conditions change daily, the department encourages people to visit its COVID-19 employment page for the most current information.
Oregon's Occupational Safety and Health Division has an online form for workers who have a concern or complaint about an employer’s compliance with COVID-19 workplace restrictions.
Restaurant workers impacted by COVID-19 can apply April 2 for a one-time, $500 grant to use toward housing, transportation, utilities, child-care, groceries, medical bills and/or student loans. These grants will be administered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Oregon Employment Department said in a news release that it received more than 76,500 unemployment claims during the week of March 15. The number of new claims continues to increase this week.
The Oregon Department of Revenue announced an extension for Oregon tax filing and payment deadlines for personal income taxes, among other taxes. The state changes closely follow the IRS extension declaration. The department has created FAQs to explain the changes for taxpayers.
City & County Resources:
USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Rural Development will keep its customers, partners, and stakeholders continually updated as more actions are taken to better serve rural America.
Travel Oregon has created an online form to capture feedback on how to best meet the needs of the 115,000 Oregonians who are directly employed in the tourism industry.
The International Economic Development Council is offering a free webinar from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 30 to explain a range of federal programs and resources to help businesses respond to and recover from the pandemic. Register here.
Oregon licensed healthcare professionals looking to volunteer in the fight against COVID-19 can find more information on this Oregon Health Authority site. The site also has information on how out-of-state medical professionals can register to help.
FEMA has a new webpage with information to help the public distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also seeks your help in stopping the spread of disinformation.
Non Profit Organizations:
The Oregon Community Foundation provides funds through the Oregon Small Business Stabilization Fund to nonprofit organization in Oregon that provide loans or grants to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Grants will be awarded to community lending organizations or other nonprofit intermediaries. Small businesses are not eligible to receive these funds.
Oregon Housing and Community Services has a COVID-19 landing page, with information a range of housing-related information. The page also provides new information on the announcement by the state’s three largest utilities to suspend disconnection and late fees due to the pandemic.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture regularly updates its COVID-19 resource page with information about farm workers, animal health, food safety and more.
USDA Rural Development has extended the loan application deadline for two rural grants due to COVID-19. These include the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The page also explains other USDA Rural Development programs to help rural Oregon.
UPDATE — 28 March 2020: Thank you for the quick feedback on yesterday's newsletter. I was so pleased to learn of more stories happening in our community in response to COVID-19.
One constituent shared this, "Our church, Westminster Presbyterian Church hosted a Red Cross blood drive the afternoon of the 23rd, and with all appointments scheduled and 19 walk ins, the local community responded by donating 38 units of blood, surpassing the 27 unit goal. Three of us at church organized and volunteered at the drive, and I donated as well."
If you have examples from your neighborhood, workplace, or school community, please keep the stories coming and I'll continue to highlight them in the newsletter.
Website Correction: www.coronavirus.gov
Due a staff error, yesterday's link to the Center of Disease Control website was incorrect. The correct site was highlighted earlier and remains www.coronavirus.gov. Our apologies for this error. Thank you for your patience with us at this time.
UPDATE — 27 March 2020: How heart warming it was to see 10,000 mask kits quickly picked up this week on Mission Street in response to a community request from Salem Health to assist with needed masks for their staff. Time and again Oregonians rise to help their community.
During times like these, small volunteer efforts improve both our own mental health and community resilience. Another meaningful way to give back, is by scheduling an appointment with Red Cross to donate blood. Blood is needed for patients and it may be used to develop promising plasma treatment for COVID-19. If you are healthy and able to drive to an appointment, check out www.RedCross.org or call 1-800-Red-Cross (1-800-733-2767).
Together we can save lives.
Today the House passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act or the $2 Trillion-dollar relief and economic stimulus package that’s been in the news. What that means for you:
- Individual payments of $1,200 per individual, $2,400 per couple and $500 per child for most Americans. And a reminder, the tax filing date for BOTH federal and Oregon income tax has moved to July 15,2020.
- Extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits from 3 months to 4 months and temporary compensation of $600/month in addition to the UI benefit.
- $350 billion in funds available to small businesses through the Small Business Administration economic disaster loans program mentioned earlier. https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/
- Extends Real ID requirement deadline for state compliance to September 2021. This is great news for Oregon, as DMV was not going to be able to start issuing these until July and the original deadline for compliance was this October.
- $30 billion to Education Stabilization Fund aimed at assisting states in keeping their kids receiving critical education needs at a time many schools have closed.
The Joint Special Covid-19 Response Committee met last week as well as earlier this week for several hours each time. Many priorities were discussed around economic relief and household stability, including rental assistance, small business supports, child care needs for first responders, education alternatives for our kids, and of course how to secure necessary PPE for our first responders. We are now waiting to hear when Governor Brown will call a special session in response to COVID-19.
Stay Current on Covid-19:
For up to date on COVID-19 the CDC continues to have regular updates on cases by state and county as well as tips for all types of settings to assist with social distancing measures and to stay healthy www.coronavirus.org. They’ve also started many of their public service announcements which you have seen while watching your favorite shows.
We are almost through the initial 15 day push to slow the spread of COVID-19, AND it's Friday! Hang in there Oregon we will make it.
UPDATE — 18 March 2020: Clearly we've not seen anything like this in our lifetime; a contagious disease that seemed to come out of nowhere and dealt a stealth blow to our freedom, job security, retirement accounts, and loved ones' health. It wasn't the disaster we prepared for, and unfortunately our public health system when it comes to infectious disease was not well-equipped. We'd been focused on reducing chronic disease, expanding health equity and addressing social determinants of health. With the leadership of federal and state government during unprecedented times we will innovate, work overtime, and turn this around. We will not be defeated, and our spirit will not be deflated.
Like you, I feel saddened by the risk this poses to local businesses and staff. However, I will order online, pick up take-out from local restaurants, and help as much as possible to help local businesses. I will work extra hours and continue to make calls to check in with our mayors, school board members, superintendents, and area businesses to see what they need from the State of Oregon to get through this. I will follow the federal agency response and work to get these messages out to you because there are so many resources headed our way that have not been headlined in the media. Many of these agencies have emails you can write from your home if you have ideas or are having trouble getting issues resolved, as do the state agencies. Below are just a few resources mentioned today in the federal response call.
Federal Response Economic Updates
The United States Small Business Agency Update: Small businesses are eligible for economic injury disaster loans if the state Governor has applied to show need. The criteria to prove need has been greatly reduced so although the governors used to have to show 5 businesses in need per county to get county approved, I believe now they only need 5 business per state for every county in the state to be approved. As of this morning Oregon still was not approved — they had approved WA, CA, MT., RI, DC, NM, UT, ND. Businesses can apply by going to www.SBA.gov/disaster and clicking apply for assistance. It typically takes 2-3 weeks to be approved and a few days after that to have funds accessible from the loans.
Unemployment Insurance from the Department of Labor: UI is a federal/state partnership. State administers, there is increased flexibility with federal guidelines due to COVID-19. They are fielding a huge number of requests. Please be patient with filing online or by phone. If folks need help figuring how where to file, etc., use www.servicelocator.org; for help with Wage/Hour Division www.DOL.gov/WHD assists with paid leave guidance. They are trying to keep up with demand, but calls are high. The federal number is 866-487-9243.
OR Joint Special Commitee COVID-19 Response
Finally, the Joint Special Committee On COVID-19 met today for the first time. In the spirit of true bipartisanship, we are tackling this issue by bringing forward solutions to help Oregonians. We are forging ahead to reduce the spread of COVID-19, preparing for necessary medical care, and shoring up solutions to keep our businesses viable. If you have been laid off, I'm hopeful with help these layoffs will only be temporary and we can quickly get your unemployment benefits moving. Please be patient with this office, they are experiencing a high volume of calls. It's crucial you remain persistent with them and keep calling the line for assistance. Oregon's unemployment Insurance number is 1-877-345-3484.
UPDATE — 17 March 2020: Hello Friends,
As we enter the push to contain the spread of Coronavirus, we can continue to find optimism in the creativity and resilience Americans bring when pushed by forces larger than ourselves.
Many of us have discovered how to use Zoom to conduct business meetings and to enable community groups to move forward and coordinate services. Our faith community has begun using live streaming and websites to help congregations stay connected, and Oregon agencies are working overtime to keep their services open and accessible.
Tomorrow the Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response will meet at 10:00am to organize and begin work on our appointed goals. You can submit written material online to allow your concerns to be heard as there will only be invited testimony due to restrictions on social distancing and crowds, and closure of the Capitol. Tune in at 10:00am and let me know what you think about our work ahead.
This evening Governor Brown released the following impacts through Executive Order:
The orders, outlined in Executive Order 20-08, are as follows:
- Schools are to remain closed through Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
- Districts are to provide learning supports and supplemental services to students and families during the closure period, including meals and child care. This includes the delivery of food assistance and offering child care for essential health care professionals and first responders.
- School districts may call on public school educators and employees to deliver limited learning and support services.
- Each district will pay all their regular employees during the closure.
- The Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Health Authority, and Department of Human Services are directed to support public schools in the continuity of mental health services.
[16 March 2020]
This is it — this is the moment we must fight hard, do the right thing, focus on those we owe our democracy to — our parents and grandparents. The next 15 days are critical to contain the spread of this virus. Today the President updated what we should do to slow the spread of the virus with others. There is no time to waste. If you are young, limit your trips to slow sharing the virus with others; if you are older and at higher risk, do everything you can to stay put; but socialize using the tools we have: Social media, Facetime, calls to family members. Together we can rise just as we have in prior generations to war and natural disasters.
Below is what we need to focus on collectively for the next 15 days courtesy the Center of Disease Control. They are well informed, their leaders helped contain and have led us thorugh other epidemics. They have recommended where to focus our energy for the next 15 days.
In addition, Governor Brown announced changes that are in effect at least for the next four weeks, including limiting groups to less than 25; ensuring eating out is only "take out and delivery". The economic impact has been significant. We are looking at additional policies to help cushion the financial burdens everyone is facing.
Keep the emails coming. We will keep pushing out information as it comes to us from the Governor conference calls, daily Oregon Health Authority calls, County, City, and local hospital updates, we are all here for you. Together we will make it, because we are OREGON.
Thank you for all you are doing to change your personal and work behavior to protect our vulnerable Oregonians. This is a trying time, no doubt, but with everyone pulling together across our neighborhoods, counties, state, and nation we will get through this and build the future our kids deserve.