Monday, May 17, 2021
MASK GUIDANCE EXPECTED SOON FOR OREGON BUSINESSES
At the direction of Gov. Brown, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is developing updated business guidance that reflects the CDC's announcement last week that masks are not needed indoors or outdoors for fully vaccinated Americans, with some exceptions.

OBI and our partners had strongly encouraged the governor to update the guidance so Oregon, allowing relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated Oregonians as an incentive for more people to get the vaccine. This new situation, set off by an unexpected announcement by CDC, creates a complex situation to navigate, and has generated questions about how retailers will regulate customers and what employers may ask of employees.

The new OHA guidance will set the stage for the state’s expectations, and we understand it will be followed by guidance on how the new mask rules impact the broader COVID workplace rules enforced by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). We expect OSHA to release updated rules in the coming days and will notify our members when that happens.

Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC said Americans still need to wear masks when traveling on public transportation, visiting hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, prisons, and other higher risk places. The new guidance also does not apply to schools, where the mask mandate is still in effect.

This document from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlights frequently asked questions and considerations for employers when it comes to vaccines in the workplace.

OBI and law firm Stoel Rives are hosting a webinar next Wednesday, May 26, from noon to 1 p.m. to discuss what employers can and cannot ask employees and customers as this new guidance takes effect. 
CAPITOL CENTRAL
Friday, May 14, was the deadline for committees to post bills for work sessions (as opposed to public hearings) in the second chamber. Bills that failed to be posted will not advance, with exceptions for bills in Ways and Means, Revenue and Rules committees. OBI is still monitoring 437 of the remaining 1336 bills.

With constitutional “sine die” (adjournment date) six weeks away, and the last quarterly revenue forecast of the session coming on Wednesday, pressure is mounting to finalize the budget and pass remaining necessary legislation. 

Our 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:

  • Last week, OBI testified against HB 3160, a bill that would create a new surcharge on property and casualty insurance policies sold in Oregon. The bill would also create new wildfire mitigation efforts, however, the narrowly targeted funding method of insurance surcharges would create yet another impediment for businesses in Oregon to grow, invest or hire.
  • Lawmakers continue to discuss campaign finance proposals. Last Thursday, HB 2680 was heard in the House Rules committee. The newest proposal creates a system of limits for most but creates a complicated formula for contributions from small donor committees and membership organizations. Of note, membership organizations are defined as an organization that is “not formed or operated for the purpose of conducting or promoting commercial enterprise.” The public funding proposal in the bill would allow for a match of $6 for every $1 raised by the candidate. There is an alternative proposal, which is much simpler and just has limits the same as the federal limits. OBI testified urging legislators to support campaign finance limits that are easy to comply with and are fair for all stakeholders.
  • HB 3398, which delays the timelines for the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) program, is scheduled for a hearing on May 20. The current law would require PFMLI contributions to begin Jan. 1, 2022 and benefits to begin Jan. 1, 2023. That timeline is simply unreachable for the Employment Department and they are proposing to delay the timelines. Under this bill, contributions will begin Jan. 1, 2023 and benefits will begin Sept. 3, 2023. OBI plans to testify in support.
  • HB 3389, providing unemployment insurance fixes to provide relief to employers, was heard last Thursday. OBI testified in support, noting that it is important that employers not be punished for layoffs that were dictated by government shutdowns.
  • HB 2495, proposing an expansion of the Toxic-Free Kids Act (TFKA), failed to be posted on Friday in Senate Energy and Environment so it is dead. OBI worked hard to make sure the bill did not advance out of the Senate.
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
Gov. Brown Sets 70% Vaccination Target; Younger Oregonians Now Eligible
Last Tuesday, Gov. Brown announced that the state would fully reopen – meaning the risk level system that imposes business restrictions would be completely lifted – when the vaccination rate for Oregonians 16 and older reaches 70%. She estimated that the state could reach that level by the end of June.  As of today, 45.8% of Oregonians 16 and older were fully vaccinated, and 13.4% were in process with one shot.

Beginning this Friday, May 21, counties that get to at least 65% of residents 16 and older receiving at least one shot would be moved to “low risk,” which would allow broader business activities and social gatherings. As of this morning, Benton, Hood River and Multnomah counties had met that benchmark, and three counties were close, Washington County (64.9%), Lincoln (64.2%) and Deschutes (63%).  You can find the most up to date information on your county here.

Also last week, Oregon began vaccinating 12-15 year old residents after the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup confirmed the Pfizer vaccine was safe and effective in that age group. 
Lackluster Jobs Report Highlights Generous Unemployment Benefits Issue
The federal April jobs report was underwhelming. Most analysts expected the economy to create 1 million jobs in April, and instead, businesses added only 266,000. The unemployment rate was essentially unchanged, but wages rose 0.7% from March and the labor force increased 430,000.

Increasingly, businesses are struggling to compete with generous government benefits, including the $1,400 stimulus payments that were distributed earlier this year, and the extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits paid by the federal government that is scheduled to last through September. Those anecdotal reports are now showing up in the data with reduced hiring.
Business and Labor Agree that America Needs Comprehensive Infrastructure Package
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO are united in their support for a comprehensive infrastructure package, urging Congress to pass a bill by July 4.

Last week, Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discussed the importance of rebuilding America’s infrastructure, and how we can get it done. Learn more here and join the effort.
OBI IN THE NEWS
By Matthew Kish and Pete Danko, Portland Business Journal

“Prior to Brown's announcement, Oregon Business & Industry said the state should immediately adopt the CDC guidance.

"’We are concerned that the new nationwide guidance could put Oregon business owners in a position to have to enforce state mask guidance, even when the CDC has given the green light for fully vaccinated Oregonians to leave it at home,’ said OBI CEO Sandra McDonough, in a news release.”
By Katherine Kisiel, KATU

“While many employees are still wearing masks, the president of Oregon Business & Industry said this new guidance will give employees a new incentive to get vaccinated.

"’People who are working inside, on machinery, janitors, and people, the cooks in the kitchen, if they can show they’re vaccinated … they can take their masks off, and it won’t be hot, they won’t have those fogged up glasses, and we’ll start seeing the end of this pandemic that’s been so hard on everybody,’ said Sandra McDonough, OBI president.”
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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