Monday, March 29, 2021
Vaccine Timeline Accelerated Again for Frontline Workers
Frontline workers are eligible to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations on April 5, according to an accelerated schedule announced by Gov. Kate Brown last week.

Who qualifies as “frontline?” Here’s a simple test OBI worked out with the governor’s office:  

  • Does the employee have routine contact (15 minutes or more) with others outside of their household because of their job?
  • Is the employee unable to safely maintain six feet of distance from others while performing the job?
  • Is the employee unable to perform their job duties from home or another remote location that limits contact with people outside of their household?
  • Is the job represented in the broad industry list defined by the CDC as essential? This includes the entire list.

If the answer to all of those questions is yes, the employee is considered a frontline worker who qualifies for the vaccine beginning April 5.

The state is giving employers broad discretion to determine who is frontline. Companies need to apply these tests to different employee groups within their organizations. If they have some employees working remotely who do not meet the test, they are not considered frontline workers.

Importantly, employees DO NOT need to bring proof from their employers that they qualify as “frontline.” Individuals must attest that they meet the qualifications when they sign up for a vaccination, but no further proof is necessary. Also, individuals will not be required to show proof of identification when they receive the shot. If they have an an insurance card, they will be asked to show it, but that is not a requirement.

To get more information you can share with employees about the vaccine, including how to make appointments, access this employer toolkit released by the Oregon Health Authority last week.

Today, Monday, March 29, several groups become vaccine eligible:

  • Adults 45-64 with underlying health conditions,
  • Migrant and seasonal farm workers,
  • Seafood and agricultural workers,
  • Food processing workers,
  • People living in low-income senior housing, senior congregate and independent living,
  • People experiencing homelessness,
  • People currently displaced by wildfires,
  • Wildland firefighters, and
  • Pregnant people 16 and older.
 
OBI is hosting a webinar on April 13 in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority and PhRMA to provide our members with the latest information on vaccine rollout and how you can ensure your employees and communities are prepared to receive it.
CAPITOL CENTRAL
This week, the 2021 legislative session reached its halfway point, with the Oregon House still shut down today because of at least two verified COVID-19 cases. The House is scheduled to meet Tuesday unless additional cases are identified, with floor sessions scheduled every day for the remainder of the week.

The House faces a backlog of bills, and a refusal by the Republican caucus to waive the requirement that bills be read aloud has slowed the process down even more. Speaker Tina Kotek announced this week that the chamber will be using an automated bill reading process to speed matters up.  

The Oregon Senate, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet on Thursday. That chamber met last Thursday as well and passed a controversial bill banning firearms in the Capitol, on a vote of 16-7. The Republican caucus did not block quorum, but some GOP members refused to show up for the vote, creating a split in the Senate GOP caucus.

Partisan and philosophical splits continue to weigh heavily. On Sunday, far-left and far-right protestors converged at the Capitol, which led to a violent protest and arrests. Another protest is expected on Thursday.

OBI continues to track hundreds of bills. Our newly redesigned website includes timely and in-depth updates, which you can find here. Here’s a few highlights of what’s going on at the Capitol right now:

  • The co-chairs of the Ways & Means Committee released their first 2021-23 biennium draft budget framework last week. The draft shows total spending of $27.2 billion for the biennium which begins July 1, a nearly 13% increase over the current fiscal biennium.
  • At a hearing on April 7, OBI will testify against HB 2674 and a proposed amendment, which would create a series of new taxes, including taxes on off-road equipment and red-dye diesel fuel, which would hit the construction, forestry and equipment rental/sale industries particularly hard. It also would impose a 3% tax on the retail sale of tires across the state. OBI is part of a large coalition opposing the bill.
  • HB 3389, a proposal to address pandemic-driven unemployment tax increases by adjusting experience ratings to the level they were at the start of 2020 was introduced last week and has a hearing on April 1. The bill would also provide forgiveness for one-third of tax burden deferred by some employers that saw increases of 1% or more, and it would reduce the amounts that must be in Oregon’s trust fund by 10%. We have heard from many members about this issue, and OBI generally supports the direction the bill lays out.
  • HB 2474, which proposes to expand the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), had a hearing last Monday where Paloma Sparks testified in opposition. As introduced, the bill would make drastic changes to OFLA including reducing the threshold for impacted employers from those having 25 employees to any employer with one or more employee. We are working to improve the language in the bill.
  • We are also working to defeat bills that would change Oregon’s nationally recognized workers’ compensation system, change scheduling laws, and prohibit “cashless” payment systems in retail stores. 
If have questions or comments about a bill, or would like to be involved in a policy committee, contact us at communications@oregonbusinessindustry.com.
POLICY UPDATES
Paycheck Protection Program Application Deadline Extended Through May 31
After widespread advocacy from both sides of the aisle and throughout the nation’s business community, Congress last week passed the Paycheck Protection Program Extension Act, which leaves the application period open until May 31. The previous deadline was this Wednesday.
 
If you are interested in applying for a PPP loan, contact your financial institution right away. 
U.S. Small Business Administration Announces Increase in EIDL Program
The U.S. Small Business Administration is increasing the maximum amount small businesses and non-profit organizations can borrow through its COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Starting the week of April 6, 2021, the SBA is raising the loan limit for the COVID-19 EIDL program from 6-months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $150,000 to up to 24-months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $500,000.
 
Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program Opens Next Week
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is launching a website for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) application portal today in anticipation of opening applications for the much-anticipated critical economic relief program on Thursday, April 8, 2021.
 
Prior to the official SVOG application opening, the SBA will host a national informational webinar to highlight the application process for potential eligible entities from 2:30 to 4 p.m. ET tomorrow, March 30, 2021. Those interested in participating can register here.
Gov. Brown Releases Economic Recovery Plan
Gov. Brown's 10-Point Economic Recovery Plan, released last Tuesday, lays out an equity-based economic recovery effort in the wake of last year's shocks of pandemic, wildfire, and racial injustice.

Release of the plan coincides with impending release of Oregon's share of federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act, estimated to be nearly $6 billion total. Joth Ricci, the Dutch Bros present and CEO and chair of the Oregon Business Plan, noted that many of the governor’s priorities match the Business Plan’s long-term theme of Recovery for Shared Prosperity.

“Oregon businesses have worked throughout the pandemic to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 while also protecting Oregon jobs and family incomes to the greatest extent possible. We are pleased with the direction Governor Brown is taking with this plan to immediately invest state and federal resources towards shared prosperity and a robust recovery,” he said. “Oregon businesses need both short-term relief and long-term investments like those in the governor’s plan to help get our state back on its feet and thriving."

Ultimately, the Oregon Legislature will help direct how the new federal money will be spent and what efforts are prioritized. Several lawmakers are having those discussions now.
NEWS FOR OREGON BUSINESSES
By Keaton Thomas, KATU

"The federal government has made it very clear it is not their intention for this money to be taxed. They deliberately said they are not going to tax it," said Sandra McDonough, President and CEO of Oregon Business and Industry. "I think you can read that as the federal government saying the state should not tax it."
By Jamie Goldberg, The Oregonian/OregonLive

“We have heard from businesses across our state whose unemployment insurance tax rates have increased substantially because they were forced to lay off workers during the COVID pandemic shutdown,” said Nathaniel Brown, a spokesperson for Oregon Business & Industry. “We are glad that there is bipartisan agreement that this issue must be addressed.”
By Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico

“Congress on Thursday agreed to keep the Paycheck Protection Program alive for another two months, giving the nation's small businesses more time to borrow billions of dollars in government-backed loans to stay afloat.

The Senate voted 92-7 in favor of legislation that would delay the PPP's loan application deadline to May 31 from March 31, sending the bill to President Joe Biden for his signature following House passage last week.”
By Aaron Mesh, Willamette Week

“Multnomah County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to appoint Andrea Valderrama to an Oregon House seat vacated this spring by the resignation of Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland).

Valderrama, the chair of David Douglas School Board and a former staffer to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, will become the first Peruvian-American to serve in the Oregon Legislature. She was one of three finalists that county commissioners considered to represent House District 47, which covers most Portland neighborhoods east of Interstate 205.”
CONNECT WITH US
The OBI team is always available to assist you. Please feel free to reach out to us at communications@oregonbusinessindustry.com. 
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