Spring 2020 - Finding a path forward; Getting back to business

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Rep. Pam Marsh

May 30, 2020

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It’s safe to say that this has been the strangest springtime of our lives. COVID-19 turned our world upside down, disrupting the way we do business and the patterns of our daily activities.  Those sacrifices worked: Epidemiological models tell us that our actions prevented 70,000 COVID-19 cases, including 1,500 hospitalizations. Those Oregonians would have been our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members—or maybe ourselves.

Now in Phase 1 of recovery, we head in to June with a renewed sense of wonder at the outside world we’re seeing for the first time in a while. But re-opening doesn’t mean that we have conquered coronavirus and are ready to resume life as it was a few months ago.  Instead, this is a gentle, one-step-at-a-time process that will be closely monitored for unpredicted spikes in new cases to ensure that we understand and can manage the ongoing course of the disease.

Those who are high risk from age or underlying health conditions are still advised to remain as close to home as possible. And as we venture out, all of us need to stay alert to the risks we are assuming for ourselves or inadvertently imposing on others.   

To be sure, life in our post-COVID world is going to be different. We’ve learned new ways of doing things—sometimes because we had no choice, and other times because the crisis created partnerships and spurred innovation. For some of us, the virus had dire financial consequences. Local and state budgets have been hit hard and initial projections suggest that recovery will take years. Nothing about this is going to be easy.

Now we have an opportunity to take the lessons born of a pandemic and build a community that is resilient, inclusive, and rooted in our connections. Compassion and kindness carried us through this first stage of the crisis and will see us forward. 

More than ever before, we know that we are in this together. 


Representative Pam Marsh

State Representative
Oregon House District 5 - Southern Jackson County

In this Issue - Quick Links


The Tragedy of George Floyd's Death

Like you, I am shocked and anguished by the violent police behavior that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. Minnesota seems far away, but we know that racism and deadly disparities are woven into the fabric of our nation. Your legislators are committed to identifying and correcting injustices here in Oregon.

Here is a statement made by House Speaker Tina Kotek earlier this week. I stand with Speaker Kotek and all of you as we mourn, yet again, a senseless loss. We must be better than this. 

"Tonight, the murder of George Floyd and the seriousness of the events in Minneapolis this week compel me to share something more than the latest news on the pandemic.

Our willingness to put our shared humanity first and keep each other safe is at the core of our success thus far in winning the fight against the coronavirus. I’ve been celebrating that humanity for weeks and drawing hope from it. George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement is the opposite of that humanity.

His death is yet another ugly tragedy in a series of deadly encounters that should never happen. The police officers involved in his murder should be charged and held accountable.

The root of the problem is the systemic racism that is embedded in our country’s history. The coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately, is also playing out this same systemic racism, as we witness the disproportionate harm the virus is causing in communities of color. In Oregon, the Latinx community makes up 33% of diagnosed cases of coronavirus despite making up approximately 13% of the state’s population. Nationwide, members of the black community are dying at a far higher rate from coronavirus than other Americans.

This has been such a heartbreaking year. The toll on our public health, our economy, and our collective psyche has been tested like few times in our nation’s history. Will we learn from this experience and build a better world together? I will continue to hope.

And I won’t forget George, Ahmaud, Philando, Tamir and all the other lives that have taken. We must continue to push for greater police accountability and call out racism in all its forms."

Reflections on the Path Forward

As Oregon begins to reopen, the question I ask myself is how do we move forward? This is an excerpt from a short column that I submitted to the Ashland Daily Tidings on behalf of the City of Ashland Culture of Peace Commission. 

The full column is linked HERE

A community that has sustained trauma can become weakened and even fracture. But I don’t think that’s who we are, and I don’t accept collapse as an acceptable option.

We can choose a path of reflection and resilience, understanding that reinvention can be good for our souls as well as our financial bottom lines. Undoubtedly, we will need to throw out some of the expectations we took for granted before the pandemic took over. But here in Southern Oregon we have already learned a lot about grit and fortitude from our experience with seasons of smoke and wildfire. We are not ready to throw in the towel."

State Budget Takes a Hit

The economic forecast released by Oregon’s Office of Economic Analysis in late May provided our first official glimpse at the revenue impacts incurred as a result of the coronavirus response. To no one’s surprise, it’s a bleak picture.

The sudden stop of economic activity resulting from COVID-19 plunged the state into a severe recession. As business activity resumes, we should see a rebound in consumer spending and business activity. Economic growth in the last half of the year should be strong. However, the state’s recovery will remain far from complete until development of a vaccine or medical treatment. 

Revenue losses in the current biennium (ending June 30, 2021) are estimated at $2.7 billion from taxes and the lottery. In the following two biennia, revenue losses will be $3-4 billion in each two-year cycle. That assumes that all other factors remain stable and that recovery proceeds as forecasted. 

Once other calculations are made, the revenue shortfall for the current period creates a $979 million deficit in the state’s general fund. If cuts are made across the board, we would no doubt incur damage to core services that support our most vulnerable families.

Over the next several weeks, legislative budget committees will begin the difficult process of identifying cuts to programs and personnel that could close the gap. We will also look at using some of the $1.6 billion in reserves held in the Education Stability and Rainy-Day funds. Our mission is to weigh uncertainty about future revenues with the need to ensure that we sustain the institutions and programs that are critical to recovery.

One thing is clear: Our economic recovery is inextricably tied to our ability to manage the health crisis. Consumers are looking for positive signs that it is safe to venture forth. Disruption caused by opening too quickly will undermine confidence and reverse the recovery trajectory. 

As the state economist, Mark McMullen, said when presenting the forecast, “A return to normal in the health outlook is vital for this economic outlook.”

CARES Act Provides Some Relief

Oregon received about $1.39 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) for state and local use through the federal CARES Act, which can be spent on costs associated with the impact of COVID-19. 

Approximately $450 million will be used to cover expenses incurred in the state public health and emergency management response. An addition $415 million of this funding has been allocated to local governments and Tribes for COVID expenses: 

  • $215 million initially will fully reimburse local governments (cities, counties and special districts) for expenses related to the public health crisis. Jackson County has plenty of those, given our robust and very effective response. Once we know public health costs, we can allocate the balance of this account to other pandemic response, including small business relief.
  • An additional $200 million will be allocated to state expenditures made on behalf of local governments, including personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.), contact tracing and quarantine beds.

The balance of $525 million is still to be allocated. Some of this money will be held in a contingency fund in case a viral spike emerges later in the year. The balance will be dedicated to address distress incurred by the pandemic, and could include business assistance, residential and/or commercial rent or utility subsidies, worker relief, child care stabilization, and other critical issues. 

To be clear—none of the CARES money can be used to replace revenue lost to local or state government during the crisis. Without direct assistance, public entities will struggle to support the front-line services that are integral to our communities, including health care, public safety, schools, and transportation. We need to continue to advocate for additional federal legislation that will shore up local and state budgets and enable us to continue to serve the public. 

ACCESS, Inc. Rental Relief Assistance

Rental Relief Assistance Available

With funds from the federal coronavirus relief package, Oregon is now dispersing $8.5 million to help tenants pay rent during the pandemic. The money has been divided across 18 local agencies that will distribute funds to renters. Here in Jackson County, that agency is ACCESS, Inc.

Renters impacted by COVID-19 who make up to 50% of the area median income can apply for rent relief, and they will need to provide proof of income loss. Applicants will be prioritized based on need.

To learn more and apply, contact ACCESS, Inc. at 541-494-1210 or email rental@accesshelps.org.

Oregon has also allotted nearly $456,000 to help farmworkers pay rent. Funds will be distributed by the Oregon Human Development Corporation, a statewide nonprofit that assists farmworkers. Call 855-215-6158.

Many DMV Offices to Restore In-person Service

Since March 25, all Oregon DMV offices have been closed, except for six offices that have remained open by appointment for commercial driver license issuance only. As Oregon continues its phased reopening, here are early details of restored in-person services at DMV offices:

  • Beginning June 3, 40 (of 60 total) DMV offices will be open across the state by appointment only
  • Beginning June 1, DMV will begin scheduling appointments
    • Call your local DMV office to schedule an appointment. Find your local office HERE.
    • Portland metro area, call (503) 945-5000 to schedule an appointment;
      Salem metro area, call (503) 299-9999 to schedule an appointment 
  • Until further notice, DMV offices will only process certain priority transactions:
    • Commercial Driver License issuance, renewal, and replacement
    • Farm endorsements
    • Standard/Class C Driver License issuance, renewal, and replacement (beginning July 6 replacements will be available online and will no longer be done in-person)
    • ID card issuance, renewal, and replacement (beginning July 6 replacements will be available online and will no longer be done in-person)
    • Driver license reinstatement
  • Transactions that can be done online will NOT be processed in-person. Go HERE for links to online services
  • DMV will NOT conduct driving tests (skills tests) for new drivers; new drivers needing drive/skills tests are encouraged to work with private, third party testing businesses; info HERE

Steps to ensure health and sanitation for DMV customers and employees include: plexiglass shields at each counter, “In” and “Out” doors to encourage one-way flow, markings to ensure social distancing in the lobby; hand sanitizer available; increased sanitation/cleaning protocols for all offices. DMV employees will wear facial coverings and DMV customers are encouraged to wear them as well.

A New Focus on Unemployment Claims

With unprecedented unemployment, hundreds of thousands of Oregon families are counting on unemployment benefits to pay their bills. While the Oregon Employment Department (OED) has processed a record number of claims, far too many Oregonians are still waiting to receive their first check. 

On Tuesday, May 26, OED announced Project Focus 100, a new initiative to address the claims backlog.

For the next few weeks, OED will increase outbound calls to resolve claims for applicants who have been waiting the longest. The most experienced employees will be assigned to work on claims, and job center employees will be temporarily reassigned to take incoming calls and to help resolve questions in all languages. Additionally, OED is now sending e-mail and phone confirmations to people who have filed Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, is working on implementing a customer service chat bot on their website, and is adding staff to support legislative offices in helping constituents with unemployment claims.

It's not perfect by any means, but these are significant steps in the right direction. However, I realize that this news is scant comfort if you are waiting for money to pay for basic needs. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you need help resolving your claim.

COVID-19 Local Resources Online - Updates

A comprehensive list of links to resources for food, mental health, health insurance, unemployment, small business support, housing, childcare and more is provided online at my website: COVID-19 Community Resources & Assistance


Here you can also find a list of ways to support 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. 


Getting Back to Business: Executive Order on Climate

While coronavirus has dominated the headlines, early work necessary to implement the Governor’s Executive Order on Climate has continued behind the scenes.   

To recap: In early March Governor Kate Brown initiated an expansive Executive Order to implement science-based emission goals and direct state agencies to immediately pursue strategies for climate action. The executive order updates the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals to reflect current science, aiming for a 45% reduction from 1990 levels by 2035, and an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. The order outlines a variety of strategies, including direction to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to pursue emissions reductions from large industrial polluters and in the natural gas and transportation sectors; expansion of the state’s Clean Fuels Program; reduction of methane emissions from landfills; implementation of a statewide transportation strategy; and food waste reduction.  

Earlier this month, DEQ submitted a preliminary report, Program Options to Cap and Reduce
Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which describes the agency’s understanding of the Environmental Quality Commission's legal authority to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in specific covered sectors, outlines program development and a stakeholder engagement process, previews policy considerations and initial core program design elements, and describes how the public and stakeholders can comment on this report.

Over the next six months, DEQ will be collecting input from communities, businesses, leaders and stakeholders. The agency will host public meetings and listening sessions focused on introducing key concepts and soliciting feedback and concerns from the public, and to elicit values and priorities that Oregonians expect the agency and policy-makers to consider in the course of developing and implementing a cap and reduce program.To engage stakeholders, DEQ will host topic-specific workshops to gather input on key outcomes that a cap and reduce program should be designed to achieve, and alternative choices on how to achieve those outcomes. 

For more information, updates and opportunities to participate, go HERE.
To sign up for email or text updates on this topic, go HERE.

Take a Survey on Telecommunications Services

Have an opinion about the quality or affordability of your telephone or internet service? The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) has launched a survey to learn what Oregon residents think about their telecommunications services. This information will be critical to guide future investments, especially in our rural areas. 

Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey HERE. The survey should take 5-10 minutes, your responses are kept confidential, and you will not be contacted because you responded. Your participation will assist the PUC to understand what residential telecommunication services Oregonians use and need. 

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
Email: Rep.PamMarsh@oregonlegislature.gov
Website and e-Subscribe: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/marsh