Coronavirus Update: Your Questions, More Mental Health Resources

House Speaker Tina Kotek

Coronavirus Update: Your Questions, More Mental Health Resources

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As we head into another weekend with nice weather, thank you for having a plan to follow Stay Home, Save Lives. We can do this!

Most of the news this week has been hard. The coronavirus death toll across the United States has been growing rapidly. Here in Oregon, our health care system is in the midst of a surge of cases and our frontline workers are feeling the burden of keeping others and themselves healthy.

While this is overwhelming, there is hopeful news. The state’s current infection data is encouraging, showing that people following Stay Home, Save Lives is limiting the spread of coronavirus. This positive future assumes that Oregonians continue to stay home as much as possible in the month ahead.

The Oregon Health Authority and other experts will be advising the Governor on when some of the restrictions we are living under can be reduced or lifted altogether. Any timeline for a return to “normal” will depend on several factors, including more information about transmission of the virus, more testing resources, and more personal protective equipment for essential workers. Deaths from coronavirus will also need to decline for at least two weeks.

I know many of you are wondering when this will be over and life can return to some kind of normal. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a clear answer at this point. The only thing we can do now is follow the guidelines of the Stay Home, Save Lives to continue slowing the spread of coronavirus.

I’m so proud of how Oregonians are taking on this challenge. The signs are already here that we will make it through, so keep it up!

Answering Your Questions

Thank you for reading this newsletter and submitting questions. Today, I’ll answer a couple of those questions about unemployment benefits. Also, all of my newsletters are posted here, so always feel free to take a look back at previous issues.

Question: I’m an independent contractor. How do I file for unemployment and when can I apply?

Answer:  The federal CARES Act expands unemployment benefits to independent contractors and self-employed individuals. It’s a new program. If you already know you are not eligible for regular unemployment, you will need to apply through the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

The Oregon Employment Department is in the process of implementing the PUA program, and once available, an application for newly eligible individuals will be available online. Applications and benefits will be retroactive. You can keep up-to-date on developments through the Oregon Employment Department here.

If you have already applied for unemployment benefits using the regular application, and you are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance but may be eligible for PUA, the department will contact you to help you get PUA benefits once the program is operational. The department asks that independent contractors and self-employed wait until the PUA program is available if they have not yet filed so the department can make progress on existing claims.

Question: I’m already on unemployment, but my benefits are running out next week. Will they be extended?

Answer: The federal CARES Act also extended unemployment compensation to eligible individuals already collecting benefits. There are two additional benefits under this program:

  • Individuals with unemployment claims ending on or before July 31, 2020 should receive an additional $600 in federal benefits per week.
  • Those who exhaust traditional unemployment benefits may receive up to 13 weeks in additional benefits.

States are awaiting further guidance from the federal government on these programs, including who is eligible. We are closely monitoring the employment department’s implementation of these programs. You can track this progress by subscribing here.

The Latest News

  • Oregon has closed fishing, hunting, crabbing and clamming to out-of-state visitors, starting today at midnight. More information is available here from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Multnomah County extended its coronavirus state of emergency until July 9. The state of emergency was originally scheduled to end today.
  • The Oregon Health Authority announced 51 more diagnosed cases of coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 1,371. The agency also sadly announced four more deaths, meaning 48 people have now died from COVID-19 in Oregon. The daily data is also in a new format (see below).
OHA COVID-19 Update 4-10-2020

More Resources for Mental and Behavioral Health

I want to credit Senator Michael Dembrow for doing a tremendous job of keeping his constituents informed throughout this pandemic. This week he provided an update on mental and behavioral health resources that I’d like to share with you:

NAMI-Oregon, the Oregon branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has a helpline where callers can get live assistance from 9 am to 5 pm weekdays. You can call 503-230-8009 or 800-343-6264, or email at

They have weekly online support groups, including for individuals living with mental illness, family members and friends with a loved one living with mental illness, and parents/caregivers raising school-age children with behavioral health issues.

NAMI-Oregon has also produced a COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide about maintaining wellness, navigating health care, and other questions that their helplines are receiving. It addresses the following situations:

  • I'm having a lot of anxiety because of the coronavirus. Please help.
  • I’m quarantined or working from home – lonely and isolated even further – what can I do?
  • I don’t have health insurance or a regular doctor – how can I get care?
  • What if I’m quarantined and can’t get my medication? Will there be a shortage?
  • My business is suffering as a result of the Coronavirus. What assistance programs are available to help?
  • Are people who have a mental illness at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19?
  • Is there a vaccine or cure for COVID-19?
  • I lost a loved one to Coronavirus. Where can I find support?
  • I’m a smoker. Am I more likely to catch COVID-19? What should I do?
  • How does homelessness increase risk of contracting COVID-19?
  • My loved one is incarcerated, are they at increased risk for exposure to COVID-19?
  • I’m the aging parent of an adult child living with a serious mental illness. I want to be sure they are taken care of.
  • Are there any online support resources for people with substance use disorders?

Additional mental health resource lines:

Update on Paycheck Protection Program Lenders

Yesterday, I shared resources from Senator Jeff Merkley showing which lenders are accepting Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications in Oregon and noted that information would be changing frequently. Well, I appreciate Senator Merkley and his office for updating that information today.

You can find updated lender information here. Again, I’d recommend checking with individual lenders regularly if you are looking for a loan for your small business.

Data by Race and Ethnicity

This week, the state started to release more detailed data on who has been diagnosed with coronavirus in Oregon. The statewide data shows members of the Latinx community have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. The Oregonian has more detailed information on that data in an article here.

There are not firm answers at this point as to why this disparity is taking place. Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon is quoted in the story, highlighting that one reason for this disparity is existing structural inequities for the Latinx community, such as more limited health care access and fears that personal information will be given over to the federal government. There have also been increased risks for individuals who can’t work from home, such as farmworkers (which Oregon Public Broadcasting highlighted here) and service workers.

The state has assured me that it is doing more to design its coronavirus communications to reach Spanish-speaking communities and is doing direct outreach and work with Latinx community organizations. I will keep monitoring these efforts as our state works to address these unacceptable disparities.

Food Banks and Blood Banks

If you are looking for ways to make a difference, consider taking some time this weekend to schedule to volunteer with your local emergency food pantry or donate blood.

As unemployment has risen dramatically and Oregonians are struggling to pay rent or utility bills, many are turning to food banks for the first time to find their next meal. I’m committed to getting additional public resources to support our food banks and the essential work they’re doing. More information on how to volunteer and donate is available here.

In the video below, Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan explains why the challenge food banks are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic is so different than others in the past.

Oregon Food Bank Video

The coronavirus outbreak also led to the cancelation of dozens of planned blood drives and the need for blood donations remains critical. Donating blood is still safe during the pandemic. You can schedule an appointment to donate by going to the Red Cross or Bloodworks Northwest.

For up to date information, please check this link to the Oregon Health Authority where regular updates are posted:

Please email me at if you have specific concerns that have not been addressed by the OHA. Our office will do all we can to help and protect all Oregonians.

Thank you for reading! We will get through this together.



Tina Kotek

State Representative
House District 44
Speaker of the House

email: I phone: 503-986-1200
address: 900 Court St NE, H-269, Salem, OR 97301