State Representative
Nancy Nathanson
June-July 2020
Scrub jay at suet
I’ve been to Salem and back since I last wrote a general legislative enews. Around here, my activities are scaled way back. A trip to the grocery store about once a week, to a hardware or garden store about once a week, picking up take-out food about once a week, and walks in the neighborhood. Watching the scrub jay learning to eat from the suet feeder.

From my desk at home I’m on the computer writing, reading, or meeting remotely just about full time.  My focus has been primarily on issues related to helping the state weather the pandemic, while my staff and I do what we can to help the people reaching out to the office.  I fire off questions and concerns to state agencies, from my growing frustration with old computer systems and subpar business processes to helping get emergency money to people. I worry about the reversal of progress in tamping down the virus. To channel my frustration and dismay I’m making a half dozen more masks so my husband and I have more in rotation while others are in the laundry. And I’ll make several more so there’s always a spare one in the car, in the bike bag, and in the fanny pack for walks.

I’m watching what’s happening in other states, too. In Mississippi, 26 state legislators have tested positive for COVID-19 from an outbreak in the State Capitol, which means one in six legislators there have the virus. It’s been reported that many of the legislators were not wearing masks while in the building. To see the status of some other state legislatures, and whether they are in session (and wearing masks) to deal with the pandemic: read here.

If you want to keep track of federal actions, you might want to check this: Daily Announcements From Federal Agencies, published by National Conference of State Legislators.

The sections below cover economic help for individuals and businesses and rent assistance; Beltline/Delta construction; Legislative Special Sessions; COVID-19: masks, telehealth, and testing; DMV; a Town Hall; and Exploding Whale Memorial Park. Read on!

Wash your hands!
Quick Updates and News
Rent assistance

The application for the Lane County rent assistance program opened again today, July 15, and will close end-of-day Wednesday, July 22. Rent assistance will be available for households that have had a loss of income due to COVID-19 and are making less than 50 percent of the median income (example: $32,500 or less for a family of four). A total of $5.1 million is available, provided by the federal COVID-19 CARES Act. Eligible households that complete an application will be selected by lottery. Assistance will be paid directly to landlords. More information and details are available directly from the Lane County website.
DMV just got more modern

The Department of Motor Vehicles has successfully completed the second phase of the Service Transformation Program, replacing outdated computer systems and updating business processes to make DMV more efficient. They have also expanded online services, including driver license replacements and paying reinstatement fees.

Between June 1 and July 6 DMV received about 123,000 appointment requests! DMV is now doing online appointment scheduling. You can schedule your appointment in real time rather than wait for a call back from DMV. Watch this video to see how the new system works and schedule an appointment.
Pandemic economic help for individuals and businesses

More help from Legislature passed yesterday!

The Joint Emergency Board allocated more than $200 million to support COVID-19 relief efforts, specifically targeting investments to struggling workers, small businesses and Oregonians facing the deepest and most disparate impacts of the pandemic.

Investments include emergency relief checks to Oregonians still waiting for unemployment benefits, emergency assistance to small businesses with 25 or fewer employees that have not received support under the federal CARES Act, assistance for workers who contract or have been exposed to the virus but do not qualify for traditional sick leave, the Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency, and more.

OED Website: Did you lose income due to COVID-19? Have your hours been cut?
OED has launched a new informational website in the effort to better communicate much-needed information about all its programs. It includes links to information for business, and lots of information for workers, including:
  • Online Claim System, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extra $600/week (FPUC), Benefit extensions (PEUC and others), and COVID-19 Oregon Employment Dept. temporary rules
  • Before applying: Eligibility Quiz; Other benefits; Benefits calculator for regular UI and PUA
  • Apply: filing the initial claim, Documents needed, Step-by-step application guides/videos, and Unemployed Worker Handbook
  • After applying: filing the weekly claim; Application confirmation; Check on your claim; Direct deposit or debit card; Make changes/updates; Benefits decision, denials, Appeals and hearings
The situation many Oregonians find themselves in because of delayed Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits is outrageous. I’m working with my colleagues to get payment out to these people, some of them holding on by a thread – while we wait for federal action and better state processes. I’m pressing for action in a number of areas related to business process and information technology.

Unemployment claims
Lindsay in my office has compiled some of the most important information from OED including what to expect once you file an initial claim, time frames for different applications, and issues that can be handled online versus on the phone. That document can be found here. Lindsay and James are both responding to emails and calls.

PPP Loans
Check out this article in the Oregonian examining which Oregon businesses received the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and this dataset which shows Oregon businesses that received $1 million in more in aid, including four pages of Eugene businesses (not all included: nearly 600 loans over $150,000). The dataset shows the owner race/ethnicity, gender, veteran status, and the number of jobs the businesses was able to retain with the loan funding.
COVID-19, health, testing
mask up

Have you seen the steep rise in cases in the past few weeks? We need to wear masks when we’re indoors in public places. And outdoors where six feet of distance can't be maintained. It’s important.

Oregon Health Authority guidance (excerpt):
"Individuals who have a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe or a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a mask, face shield or face covering can request an accommodation to enable full and equal access to services, transportation, and facilities open to the public."

If this describes you, Disability Rights Oregon recommends calling businesses ahead of time to explain what you need so they can work with you to find an accommodation. See more in their FAQ.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries also posts information including advice that businesses ask for about how they might accommodate someone's needs while protecting the health and safety of other customers and employees. Read more here

Children under the age of two are not required to wear a mask. Children between 2 and 12 are strongly recommended to wear a mask in public places where physical distancing is hard to maintain. Masks should be worn with assistance and under the supervision of an adult.
Telehealth (Telemedicine)

The State of Oregon has reached an agreement with 10 health insurance companies to continue providing expanded telehealth options through at least Dec. 31, 2020.

This means health insurance companies will continue to provide coverage for expanded telehealth services for Oregonians and pay for these services at the rates they established during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oregon Health Plan will continue to offer pay parity and other allowances for many telehealth services, offering the same rate as an in-person visit for physical health services, behavioral health services, and some dental and long-term care services. This agreement does not apply to self-insured plans, in which an employer assumes the financial risk of providing health care benefits to its employees. The state encourages self-insured plans to cover expanded telehealth services for members. Oregonians who have a self-insured plan should check with their employer about their coverage options. See more in the news release.

Oregon continues to increase testing, 14% more than the previous weekly high. The percentage of tests reported as positive increased from 4.2% to 5.0%. Hospitalizations increased for the fifth consecutive week but are still lower than the March and April peaks because recent cases are mostly younger people who have lower risk of hospitalization and death. ICU bed usage remains well under capacity statewide.

In a legislative briefing last week we heard that half of current cases are under the age of 40. Public health professionals tracing the source of infection report that a number of cases have been related to celebrating with family and friends (like graduations, birthdays, weddings, and holidays) and social activities involving groups of younger people (like these sources which have been recorded by OHA: exercise classes, fraternity parties, and bachelor parties).

OHA Director Dr. Allen said that the number of new cases is expected to triple over the next six weeks. The goal now is to control outbreaks and decrease the spread so that we aren’t facing rollbacks of reopening measures. Hospital capacity is the metric that would determine whether any counties have to roll back reopening.
OHA publishes a lot of data. The graphs are revealing, but use caution in interpreting them; in some cases, a line may look like it's going down (good) the last few days, but that's because reporting lags, and because developing symptoms lags after exposure.

Lane County fares better than most other counties. Our case count per 10,000 is 8.2 compared to the statewide average of 29.4, or Deschutes (Bend) at 13.9, Marion (Salem) at 54.4, or Multnomah (Portland) at 36.1. The more people travel around, the greater the risk of bringing more cases back to Lane County.

My appeal to constituents and their friends and family

You may think COVID-19 isn’t such a problem, but when you get your parents or grandparents – or someone else’s parents or grandparents – sick, nearly a quarter of them (people over 50 yrs old) end up in the hospital. Please: mask up and back up - six feet.
Here at home: around the district
Beltline/Delta Interchange
Beltline Delta interchange
Beginning July 8, northbound Delta Highway travelers will take a left-turn detour to access eastbound Beltline Highway. The detour is scheduled to last for six weeks as upgrades and improvements are done to the current regular ramp.

Northbound Delta Highway will have a temporary turn lane to enter the southwest ramp to access eastbound Beltline Highway, but there will not be a light. Southbound Delta Highway travelers will see signs warning of the traffic change.

The Beltline Highway/Delta Highway Interchange is being updated to improve safety by eliminating weaving and merging issues.

Most work impacting traffic is done at night and on weekends.

For more information on the project, go to the ODOT project website or see a project summary in my April-May enews.
Special Session of the Legislature
June. Special Session #1
The Governor called the Legislature into special session in late June. We met over 3 days and passed legislation addressing police reform, COVID-19 response, and a handful of bills that were left unfinished in the short session due to the walkout.

The bills covering new topics were already vetted in remote meetings of the Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response. In order to keep everyone participating in the public process safe, we met under protocols that minimized staffing, required face coverings, cleaning and sanitizing, and social distancing. I was in my office nearly all the time, watching hearings and even the House Chamber sessions on closed circuit TV, and went to the Chamber only to carry and speak to one bill, and for votes. The bill I carried in this special session was a repeat of the one that was up for a vote on the day the House came to a standstill; we re-introduced the same bill to make clarification to the new business tax since it was a bipartisan bill requested by business and agriculture.

This list includes some of the most significant bills, several of which I joined in as co-sponsor:
  • extends the Governor’s commercial and residential eviction moratorium through September 30
  • creates a moratorium on foreclosures if late payments on mortgages are due to the emergency declaration around COVID-19
  • increases access to broadband internet in rural Oregon
  • establishes the new legislative Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform. The committee is already at work investigating the policing of protests, the role of systemic racism in policing, and police accountability among other topics.
  • limits the use of chokeholds and any other use of force that interferes with a person’s blood flow or ability to breathe.
  • establishes a statewide online public database of records which will include the names of all police, corrections and parole and probation officers, OLCC regulatory specialists, telecommunicator (9-1-1) and emergency medical dispatchers whose certifications have been denied, suspended or revoked by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. The database is already available online, found here.
  • ends debt-based drivers license suspensions. This bill will prevent someone’s driver’s license from being taken away only because they are unable to pay traffic fines.
Another special session?
Floor speech-in mask
We anticipate that the Governor will call us into session again this summer to address fiscal issues facing the state. We need to rebalance the budget. Current revenue is down and future revenue is forecast to be way down, services for individuals and families are stretched even thinner, and budgets need to be adjusted to the pandemic situation. The budget for this year is anticipated to be a billion dollars down, and even greater for the coming biennium. Thanks to prudent fiscal management by the legislature in recent years, including establishing and building reserve funds our state is one of just five in the country with 100 days or more of operating reserves. We are better prepared than most to weather this economic storm, but the scale of this crisis hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression. I’m committed to protecting vital social services and education, but the scale of this crisis demands more federal action.
Town Hall
Before I go to Salem again, I want to hear what's on your mind.

The most recent special session of the Oregon Legislature passed nearly a dozen bills, covering urgent statutory changes needed to address the pandemic, and police accountability. Now it's time to make budget adjustments, acknowledging that state revenue is down, federal money may be available, and needs are way up. I’m holding a Town Hall with State Sen. James Manning and Rep. Julie Fahey. We want to hear from you. What are you observing about how people are coping with this conditional re-opening? What do you wish could happen differently, or better?

Zoom Town Hall next Thursday, July 23 at 5 PM

Please reply if you'd like to join in on this virtual town hall. Since space is limited, we’ll be sure to give priority to residents of House Districts 13 and 14 (Senate District 7).
Around the State
Exploding Whale Memorial Park

And now for something fun! If you have friends and family out of state, they might just think this is another example that in Oregon, sometimes things seem a little different - or wacky. This story went (almost) 'round the world, and now that the anniversary is marked with dedication of a new park, the story is again being picked up by national outlets like the NY Times, Newsweek, and Global News.

In November 1970, a 45-foot long sperm whale washed up on shore in Florence. The Highway Division oversaw the beaches and decided with the U.S. Navy that using dynamite to blow the whale into smaller pieces so scavenger animals could help with the clean-up was the best course of action. Sounds like a good idea, right? As Global News reports, "Folks in Oregon stuffed dynamite in a dead sperm whale and blew it up 50 years ago. It went about as well as you might expect: the whale carcass exploded like a firework and bits of charred blubber rained down on disgusted onlookers who’d gathered on the beach to watch. Locals have been telling and re-telling that whale tale ever since — and now, there’s a park to honour the moment."

Residents of Florence chose the name of the new park in a contest. The riverfront park leads to the Siuslaw River in Historic Old Town Florence.
Exploding Whale Park
new park in Florence
Whale on beach
In November 1970, a 45-foot long sperm whale washed up on shore in Florence.
Exploding whale
"...exploded like a firework and bits of charred blubber rained down on disgusted onlookers..."