COVID-19 Updates: Community Resources, Reopening, Unemployment

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Rep. Pam Marsh

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It’s April 15, and I’m sitting cross-legged on the couch in sweatpants with my laptop, phone and a cup of coffee. My daily routine, as well as the focus of my work, changed significantly a few weeks ago in response to the state’s stay-at-home directive and our sudden immersion in a COVID-19 world.  

The current crisis has required significant adaptation and even sacrifice from every Oregonian. Children are suddenly attending school from home; high school seniors are missing prom and graduation; workers are unemployed and struggling to pay the rent; small businesses are wondering how they will reopen; and health care, grocery clerks and other essential workers are taking on the risks of viral transmission in conduct of their jobs. 

The good news: it’s working. Across the state, individuals, employees and communities are doing what we have to do to contain COVID-19. We’re flattening the curve, conserving our medical system for the most serious cases, and working our way back to life as usual.

We now must be both patient and vigilant in our commitment to Stay Home, Save Lives. This newsletter includes a framework for what it will take to reopen Oregon's economy with a gradual, science-based approach.  

Heartfelt thanks to each of you for the many ways you are stepping up to take care of each other. As I remind myself every morning, this is temporary.



Representative Pam Marsh

State Representative
Oregon House District 5 - Southern Jackson County

In this Issue - Quick Links

Now Online - COVID-19 Local Resources

My newsletter published on April 3, Community Resilience & COVID-19, provided a comprehensive list of links to resources for food, mental health, health insurance, unemployment, small business support, housing, childcare and more. This list is now provided online at my website:

COVID-19 Community Resources & Assistance

Here you can also find a list of ways that you can give your support to our community during this crisis:

COVID-19 Ways to Help, Give & Volunteer

Please contact me to share additional resources and services. My staff will continue to update these lists. 


A Framework for Reopening the Economy

Across Oregon, our stay at home efforts are working to flatten the curve of COVID-19. On April 14, Governor Kate Brown announced a framework of five indicators that will guide decisions about how and when to reopen the economy.

The path forward will be a cautious one – gradual, incremental and based on science. If we are not careful, we could create a spike in cases that reverses progress, overwhelms hospitals and drives deaths.

The framework for reopening relies on five prerequisites:

  1.  A continuing pattern of slowed growth in the number of cases.

  2. Adequate inventory of personal protective equipment available to health care providers and other professionals who need it

  3. An increase in testing. We are currently conducting about 7,000 tests per week across the state. This number needs to increase to about 15,000 to ensure that we can identify the presence of the virus.

  4. A robust system of regional contact tracing, to be created by the Oregon Health Authority in partnership with local public health and medical professionals.

  5. Development of a quarantine and isolation program, including plans for at risk populations such as those in residential care and the homeless.

There is no specific schedule for reopening the shuttered economy. Instead, indicators that measure the progression of the disease will control timing.

A key element of the plan forward will be to look at the specific needs of identified business sectors, including restaurants, personal care providers, manufacturers, etc. Business owners and operators will work with public health professionals to identify protective measures that will allow a business to safely open. Geographic indicators may also be considered in the planning process.

As announced yesterday, the Governors of Oregon, Washington and California have agreed to work together to reopen businesses in each state. This doesn’t mean that these states will adopt the same indicators or reopen on the same schedule. Instead, the states will collaborate on the path forward to ensure that one state’s actions to not inadvertently create impacts for the others.

Across the state, Oregonians have stepped up, often at tremendous personal cost, to do what we need to do to control COVID-19. The economic disruption has impacted families, businesses, and communities. We are all anxious to get back to work.

Unrolling current restrictions won’t happen as quickly as we would like. The next phase of response will need to be deliberate, thoughtful and data-driven, informed by medical professionals and epidemiologists. But sooner or later, our diligent efforts to combat the virus will create the opportunity for a return to pre-COVID life.

OR, CA & WA Announce Western States Pact

This is the joint statement from the Governors:

COVID-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness. In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 – with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities.

We are announcing that California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.

While each state is building a state-specific plan, our states have agreed to the following principles as we build out a West Coast framework:

Our residents’ health comes first. As home to one in six Americans and gateway to the rest of the world, the West Coast has an outsized stake in controlling and ultimately defeating COVID-19.

Health outcomes and science – not politics – will guide these decisions. Modifications to our states’ stay at home orders must be made based off our understanding of the total health impacts of COVID-19, including: the direct impact of the disease on our communities; the health impact of measures introduced to control the spread in communities—particularly felt by those already experiencing social disadvantage prior to COVID-19; and our health care systems’ ability to ensure care for those who may become sick with COVID-19 and other conditions. This effort will be guided by data. We need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening, and we will be working in coordination to identify the best metrics to guide this.

Our states will only be effective by working together. Each state will work with its local leaders and communities within its borders to understand what’s happening on the ground and adhere to our agreed upon approach.

Through quick and decisive action, each of our states has made significant progress in flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19 among the broader public. Now, our public health leaders will focus on four goals that will be critical for controlling the virus in the future.

  • Protecting vulnerable populations at risk for severe disease if infected. This includes a concerted effort to prevent and fight outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • Ensuring an ability to care for those who may become sick with COVID-19 and other conditions. This will require adequate hospital surge capacity and supplies of personal protective equipment.
  • Mitigating the non-direct COVID-19 health impacts, particularly on disadvantaged communities.
  • Protecting the general public by ensuring any successful lifting of interventions includes the development of a system for testing, tracking and isolating. The states will work together to share best practices.

COVID-19 doesn’t follow state or national boundaries. It will take every level of government, working together, and a full picture of what’s happening on the ground.

In the coming days the governors, their staff and health officials will continue conversations about this regional path to recovery.


Navigating Unemployment Claims in Oregon

Unemployment benefits are a lifeline for workers who have lost hours or jobs due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, the tsunami of applications for benefits—100,000 in the last week of March alone—has at times overwhelmed the state system.

The Oregon Employment Department (OED) is working round-the-clock to address the historic spike in claims and update the state system to conform to new eligibility standards. OED has recently hired 300 additional employees dedicated to processing claims and is continuing to recruit more. At the same time, OED is updating its computer system to accommodate all the new federal changes so that people who qualify based on expanded eligibility standards can apply without being automatically denied. 

With so much demand, OED has had to triage system modifications to produce the most benefit possible. Unfortunately, some applicants have encountered glitches in the application process that delay, or deny, a qualified applicant. 

I understand that this is extraordinarily frustrating. I can assure you that members of the legislature are aware of the problems and are working hard to ensure OED has the resources it needs to get benefits approved.

For up to date data and announcements, I recommend OED's COVID-19 webpage. New applicants should view the video on that page, since there are a few twists to the application process for claims specific to COVID-19.

OED has established this email address dedicated to respond to your specific questions about your claim. You can also sign up for OED email updates to receive up to date information from the department.

These FAQs address the most common concerns:

What happened with the funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act?

The CARES Act of 2020 was signed into law on March 27. This allows payment of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC. This includes the expanded eligibility of Unemployment Insurance (UI) and provides the additional $600 payment for those already receiving unemployment benefits.

OED has started issuing these payments to eligible applicants. Oregonians who are already eligible for regular UI benefits and eligible for FPUC will receive two weekly payments: one for regular UI benefits, and an additional $600 payment. Individuals will be receiving FPUC benefits using the same payment method as their regular UI benefits for the week. FPUC payments will be paid for each week someone is eligible from March 29, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020. The $600 payments will be retroactive for those eligible for payments.

More information about all benefits associated with the CARES Act can be found on OED's COVID-19 page.

Why are some people getting denied who should be eligible?

Many of the provisions in the CARES Act require significant modifications to the state computer system. Changes have been prioritized as follows: 

  • The top priority has been to get the supplemental $600 payments distributed as quickly as possible; the first payments began late last week.
  • The second priority is to prepare Oregon’s unemployment system to provide benefits to those not usually eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, such as self-employed Oregonians. The department is preparing its systems for this significant expansion of benefits.
  • The third priority is implementing the numerous other programs outlined in the CARES Act, including the new federal extension program called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the federal-state shared Extended Benefits program, the Work Share program allotting federal reimbursements (instead of employers reimbursing the trust fund), and the coding necessary to eliminate the "waiting week."

What’s the status of the process for claims from independent contractors or business owners?

OED is working to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for people who are not usually eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. PUA benefits will be retroactive to February 2, 2020. In the meantime, individuals should defer their applications until the system has been updated. Information about the application process will be posted on the COVID-19 page as soon as the program is ready. Again, sign up for their email updates.

Do we need to reapply for claims due to a system error from this weekend?

OED had a restart claim error for a portion of claims received during the week of April 5 and again on April 12. The Department made an automatic fix for this issue last week, and nearly all affected should be able to continue to file weekly claims online. For those who have completed their initial claim and continue to file weekly claims, your restart error has been identified and fixed. If you tried Sunday, April 12 and got the restart error for the first time, you can retry now, and it should work. You will not lose out on a week of benefits that you were eligible to receive because of difficulty either getting through by phone, or because of an online claim error.

Updated websites have dashboards and links to information, instructional videos, and a way to sign up for updates electronically:

I know misinformation, especially coming from the Department, is frustrating and unnerving, but we also know that as OED continues to rework their systems to keep pace with eligibility rules rewritten at the federal level, we will continue to face challenges with the system.

Bottom line is, if a benefits-seeker or employer receives a message that doesn’t seem right, email them.

Dos & Dont's for Outdoor Recreation

Contact Rep. Pam Marsh

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1405
District Phone: 541-282-4516
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-375, Salem, Oregon 97301
Website and e-Subscribe: