June 26, 2020
Victories This Week, Victories to Come

In this issue:
  • Victories from the just-completed special legislative session on police accountability, housing stability, rural broadband access and other state responses to COVID-19

  • On to the July special legislative session! Help us reduce youth houselessness

  • Protecting our health: Governor approves 57 early prison releases, and faith leaders urge more

  • Environmental justice: Help us ensure Oregon funds the Governor's new Climate Action Plan
Special Legislative Session on Police Accountability & COVID-19 Response
Today, the Oregon Legislature wrapped up its first 2020 special session, which focused on police accountability and the COVID-19 pandemic.

EMO is proud to have participated in successful campaigns for the following measures. While much work still remains, we celebrate the passage of these bills and the benefits they will bring to people of color, rural communities, low-income households, and families economically impacted by the pandemic.
VICTORY: Police Accountability
EMO helped lead efforts to organize the Oregon faith community in support of legislation to address systemic racism and lack of accountability in Oregon's criminal justice system. We supported the passage of police accountability legislation put forth by the Legislature's People of Color Caucus, and continue to call for further reforms based on the contributions of community-led organizations and the insights of our state’s tireless Black faith leader advocates.

  • Key Stat: Black Oregonians are six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers.
EMO President Jan Musgrove Elfers (third from left) joins other Portland area faith leaders for "Standing at the Gate" event on Sunday, June 6. The group demonstrated to support justice for Black lives and the right of Portlanders to protest freely “without fear of attack by police using war weapons.”
VICTORY: Eviction Moratorium & Back Rent Grace Period
EMO joined our housing partners to extend Gov. Brown's eviction moratorium and give renters a grace period to make back payments ( HB 4213 ) .

We know that over 240,000 Oregon workers have lost their jobs since February, jeopardizing families' ability to pay rent. Extending the eviction moratorium and providing tenants with a six-month grace period to make back payments will keep up to 140,000 renting households in their homes.

And as leading advocates for Oregon's houseless youth, EMO knows that the best way to prevent youth houselessness is to keep children in stable housing with their families.

  • Key Stat: 47 percent of unaccompanied houseless youth in the United States first experience houselessness with their families.

  • What Can You Do? Thank your legislators for preventing more Oregon families from becoming houseless and ask them to support youth who are already houseless.
VICTORY: Broadband Access for Rural Oregonians
EMO supported SB 1603 to expand access to broadband via a service charge on cell phone plans. This will help thousands of Oregonians living in rural areas and and on reservations to safely access education, telehealth, and other essential services that are transitioning to remote models during the pandemic.

  • Key Stat: Americans in rural areas are 15 times more likely to lack access to high-speed internet.
Oregon's Youth Houselessness Crisis
July's Fight: EMO Advocating for Housing for Youth
After taking a moment to celebrate this week's special session, we now turn our attention to a likely July special session, where we will continue our work with partners to increase support for unaccompanied houseless youth (UHY).

We have been building for this moment, adding coalition partners (now up totally 83 organizations from across the state), bringing the voice of houseless youth to the halls of power (like Jace!) and raising awareness in the community through the media (see below).
Jace's Story: Houseless during COVID
Recent reporting by  The Oregonian OPB  and  KATU  has highlighted how the COVID pandemic is impacting houseless youth, including Jace Russell at Mountainside High School.
Jace Russell, a houseless junior at Beaverton's Mountainview High, was jolted to learn school would close and his education would switch to remote mode in mid-March. Before the pandemic hit, he was succeeding in classes and on track to graduate. Photo by Mark Graves/The Oregonian
 Earlier this month, EMO arranged to have Jace testify to the Senate Housing and Development Committee. Watch his powerful testimony, in which he describes living alone in his car while trying to attend high school. 

Youth houselessness will only rise as a result of the pandemic and its economic fallout. During the 2008 Recession, the number of houseless students rose 50 percent in the United States and 32 percent in Oregon. Similar increases today would see at least 1,200 to 1,800 additional youth become houseless – resulting in the number of Oregon unaccompanied houseless youth being nearly as large as the entire foster child population, age 0 to 21.
Governor Approves Early Prison Releases
EMO is proud to have participated in a large coalition effort that resulted in Gov. Brown this week commuting the sentences of 57 incarcerated Oregonians deemed medically vulnerable to the novel coronavirus .

In April, EMO organized a letter signed by 74 faith leaders and 20 faith communities from across the state calling on Gov. Brown and other lawmakers to take numerous steps to protect people who are incarcerated during the pandemic.

What's Next? We continue to call for a larger release and will work with our criminal justice reform partners to ensure the safety of incarcerated Oregonians.
Advocate for Climate Protections
Just before the statewide coronavirus closures, Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order us advocates call the Oregon Climate Action Plan.

To ensure the implementation of Governor Brown's order, we encourage you to call upon your legislators and those on the budget Ways and Means Committee
We must not lose sight of the urgent work needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create an economy that is sustainable for every Oregonian.
Now more than ever, we must come together as a community
If you would like to learn more about ways to engage in advocacy for marginalized Oregonians during this pandemic, please contact EMO Public Policy Associate, Michael DeSantis at  mdesantis@emoregon.org .
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
503-221-1054 | emo@emoregon.org | emoregon.org