All of our District 60 counties are in Phase 1 of the reopening process. Counties must stay in Phase 1 for 21 days as a gradual reopening takes place and positive cases and other indicators are being monitored. The data coming from our counties has shown we have been successful in starting to restart our economy and preventing further spread as we have not seen a spike in positive Covid-19 cases. The governor’s office released a letter with draft guidelines for Phase 2, which can be found
. All the District 60 counties have or will be applying for Phase 2 this week. Phase 2 will allow for greater flexibility and larger gathering sizes. We continue to ask for a reconsideration of guidelines every 21 days as theses phases need to be adaptive as we learn from implementation.
District 60 Schools
We have been speaking with our local superintendents to discuss the reopening of our school districts—when will that happen, what that will look like, what restrictions must be implemented, and how to have open conversations with our students and families. These are all valid questions our school leaders have asked and are awaiting answers to from the governor’s office and the Oregon Department of Education.
Senator Findley and I sent a letter to the governor on behalf of our school districts to ask for more clarity and inclusion in the conversation about these issues. Our cover letter was included with letters from 24 of our school districts expressing their desire to have a say in how Oregon’s rural schools reopen. A copy of the letter can be found
I will be following up with the Oregon Department of Education this week to demand answers and a plan to move forward. Making our schools wait for a plan for the next school year is not acceptable.
On May 20
, the Oregon Legislature received the quarterly revenue forecast. As anticipated, Oregon is now in a severe recession, one not seen since the Great Depression. Oregon has a shortfall for the last quarter of $2.7 billion. We will not know the extent of the economic disruption until we understand what Oregon’s economy and industries look like going forward. We continue to advocate for safely and thoughtfully restarting our economy as we work through the virus’ impacts. Reopening counties for some businesses was the first step, and we will need to continue to reduce the restrictions in our communities as we continue to fight the virus. The projections from last week estimate revenue projections will be approximately $10 billion less over the next four years than what they were three months ago. There are going to be some tough conversations and decisions in the current and future budget years, and filling the current $2.7 billion deficit will be the legislature’s primary focus during the anticipated Special Session.
The good news is Oregon put some precautions in place after the last recession in the form of the Education Stability Fund and the Oregon Rainy-Day Fund. Both have healthy balances ($708 million and $878 million respectively). I am not prepared to suggest if and how those funds should be used until we see when our economy will stabilize. Identifying stabilizing solutions is the first step before we determine allocation of the Rainy-Day funds.
We do know, though, that there will be cuts to programs in the future in order to address the deficits, but I will work with community leaders and my colleagues in the legislature to determine how to best protect funding for the vital services our communities need in House District 60.
PPE for Agriculture
The Governor has allocated approximately 1 million N95 masks and 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for farmworkers and agricultural producers. These supplies are available at no cost to the agricultural community. Pick-up locations are being arranged in each county. In House District 60—Baker, Grant, Harney, Lake, and Malheur Counties—call 541-889-5274 to arrange pick-up and detail what supplies you need.
Rent Relief Program
Oregon has directed $8.5 million for the COVID Rent Relief Program through Oregon Housing and Community Services, which is being allocated through local Community Action Agencies. The goal is to bring household rents current through the end of May and into June if necessary, to prevent evictions for tenants that are delinquent due to the impacts of the Coronavirus. This not only helps the renter but also the landlord. I am on the House Housing Committee and we discussed this program and others in detail last week. The need and demand for this assistance is higher than anticipated for obvious reasons, and we must find ways to fund this support for our individuals and families who are struggling amid the stark shutdown. The sooner we can fully reopen our local communities and businesses, and get Oregonians back to work, the sooner we will begin to find a semblance of stability again.
For more information or to see if you qualify, contact:
- Community Connection in Baker County at 541-523-6591
- Community Connection in Grant County at 541-575-2949
- Community in Action in Harney County at 541-573-6024
- Community in Action in Malheur County at 541-889-9555
- Klamath/Lake Community Action Services in Lake County at 541-882-3500
Oregon Public Utilities Commission Survey
The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) has launched a survey to learn what Oregon residents think of available telecommunications services. Residential telephone and cellular service customers are encouraged to take this survey to provide input about the quality of service received and whether there is access to appropriate telecommunications services for individuals and communities to thrive.
The survey is intended to provide a voice to Oregon residents using telephone and cell services. The results will help inform a report that is due to the Oregon State Legislature as part of our investigation required by House Bill 3065, which passed in the 2019 Legislative Session. This bill directed the PUC to establish a public process to investigate the continuing relevance of the “carrier of last resort” or COLR obligation on the state’s telecommunications providers given the recent changes in technology and policy in the industry. The COLR obligation requires telephone companies to provide access to telephone service in their designated service territory without discrimination.
I am extremely appreciative to all of you for engaging with us during this time, and for those that have reached out with various concerns and issues related to everything from unemployment claims to driver’s license renewals, to sending ideas, resources, and even stories of how communities are supporting one another. We are here to help in any way that we can. Please continue sending your concerns our way via my
and we will do our best to help resolve them.