COVID-19 Updates 8/4/2020

Rep. Sollman

Friends and Neighbors,

Governor Updates

Governor Calls Special Session to Balance State Budget

Governor Kate Brown will convene a Special Session of the Oregon Legislature at 8:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, 2020 to rebalance the state budget by addressing the state revenue shortfall created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor issued the following statement:

“This crisis has impacted all of us—Oregon families, businesses, non-profits, and local governments have all had to cut costs. The State of Oregon has been tightening its belt as well. With a nearly $1 billion budget deficit in the current biennium, there is more work to do.

“These decisions will not be easy. Oregon has been smart with our reserves and saved for a rainy day, preparing us to weather this economic storm. But if we use too much of our savings now, then we’ll be stuck with an even bigger budget gap for the next biennium. Putting off tough decisions this summer will only leave us with impossible choices next January.

“Unlike the federal government, Oregon must balance our state budget. State and local governments have been left reeling from the economic downturn. For months, we have waited for Congress to take action, and it is still my hope that they will include aid for states and local governments in the coronavirus relief package currently being negotiated.

“We need to preserve critical services like health care, education, and senior services during this pandemic. And, we must do more to address the disparities in state support for Oregon’s underserved communities, particularly our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and other communities of color. I would like to thank legislators for beginning this work already, and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and crafting an updated budget that serves all Oregonians.”

In her proclamation calling the special session, the Governor also noted her support for urgent legislation that builds on matters considered in the first special session, including additional police accountability reforms.

Governor Brown has already proposed $150 million in General Fund savings for the biennium. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, state agencies have worked to find efficiencies by reducing non-critical spending, delaying new programs, halting non-essential travel, and leaving positions unfilled. Governor Brown is convening the special session under her authority pursuant to Article V, section 12, of the Oregon Constitution.

Governor Announces Launch of New Programs to Assist Oregon Agricultural Workers

Oregon Worker Quarantine Fund, Community Partner Outreach Program now available to agricultural workers

Governor Kate Brown, along with a statewide coalition, has announced the launch of a new source of financial assistance for agricultural workers who must self-quarantine to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Oregon Worker Quarantine Fund will provide up to two weeks of financial relief to agricultural workers 18 and older, regardless of immigration status. Additionally, the Oregon Health Authority launched the Community Partners and Outreach – Protecting Oregon Farmworkers Program.

Agricultural workers who are recuperating from COVID-19 or are in self-quarantine may now apply to the Quarantine Fund through local community-based partners. The fund is administered by the Oregon Worker Relief Coalition, working in collaboration with state agencies and the Governor's Office.

Agricultural workers can apply for relief through local community-based organizations here or by calling 1-888-274-7292.

The Community Partners and Outreach – Protecting Oregon Farmworkers Program will provide funding for community partners with demonstrated experience serving migrant and seasonal farmworkers to conduct field education and outreach. The program will also support community partners in engagement activities aimed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and provide agricultural workers with information on housing, transportation, the Quarantine Fund, and other wraparound services developed in response to the pandemic.

Additional details about the Oregon Worker Quarantine Fund, including the eligibility and application process, are available at and .

Additional information about the OHA Community Partner Outreach Program (CPOP) is available at .

Unemployment Insurance Updates

Oregonians Awaiting Adjudication Could Receive "Benefits While You Wait"

En español

The Oregon Employment Department announced on Friday that it has found a way to pay benefits to thousands of Oregonians who are out of work due to COVID-19 while they wait for their claim, or “Benefits While You Wait.” This applies to Oregonians who are waiting for their claim to be reviewed by an adjudicator to determine whether they are eligible for regular unemployment or the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

“We are confident this group of Oregonians are eligible for benefits because they lost their job due to COVID-19, we just don’t know which program they are eligible for yet,” said Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld. “We have found a workaround that will allow us to pay benefits while their claims are being reviewed by an adjudicator. We are grateful we have figured out a way to do this because Oregonians have been waiting too long.”

The Employment Department is proactively notifying claimants who have been identified to fall into this group via email and robo calls.

Strict laws governing unemployment insurance to prevent fraud and provide people due process require that each claim be reviewed. The Employment Department estimates that tens of thousands of Oregonians whose claims are in adjudication may be eligible for PUA if they are not eligible for regular unemployment. This pool of Oregonians could begin receiving “Benefits While You Wait.” We are going to contact people who may be able to receive “Benefits While You Wait” over the next several weeks.

Oregonians who may be eligible for “Benefits While You Wait”:

  1. Applied for regular unemployment benefits;
  2. Had their claim flagged for adjudication because the Employment Department has to determine if they meet the legal requirements to get regular unemployment benefits;
  3. They are out of work due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason; AND
  4. Are likely eligible for PUA if they cannot receive regular unemployment benefits.

For now, people should continue filing their weekly claims as they have been. The Employment Department will notify people who may be able to benefit from this approach.

For more information, visit their webpage here.

Benefits While You Wait Webinar, This Thursday

PUA Webinar

Register here.

Insurance Updates

State Extends Emergency Order for Health Insurance and Amends the Property and Casualty Order

The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services’ Division of Financial Regulation extended its emergency order for health insurance and amended its property and casualty order.

The health insurance order has been extended until Sept. 1, 2020. The order requires health insurance companies to do the following for their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Provide at least a 60-day grace period to pay any past-due premium
  • Pay claims for any covered services during the first 30 days of the grace period
  • Extend all deadlines for reporting claims and other communications, and provide members with communication options that meet physical distancing standards

The order is in effect through Sept. 1, 2020, and can be extended in 30-day increments during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the complete health insurance order
Read the extension to the emergency order

The property and casualty order was amended, and is in effect through Aug. 30, 2020. The order means that Oregonians with property and casualty insurance policies, such as auto, home, and renters can request a one-time 60-day grace period for each policy to pay past-due premiums. Policyholders who need extra time to pay their premiums must contact their insurance company and confirm that the extension is needed due to a COVID-19-related financial hardship.

No documentation is required to prove the financial hardship, but the insurance company may request the confirmation to be verbal or in writing.

Also, the order requires insurance companies to pay any covered losses during the grace period and extend all deadlines for reporting claims and other communications to provide people with communication options that meet physical distancing standards.

Read the amended property and casualty order

The division’s COVID-19 consumer page is currently being updated to reflect these updated orders. Revised frequently asked questions for both consumers and regulated businesses will be available soon.

CSG West

Last week, my staff and I were able to virtually attend the CSG West annual conference. The Council of State Governments West (CSG West) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that serves the western legislatures of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, the Pacific islands of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Associate members include the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. 

Last week, we highlighted a few of the events we attended and promised more in today's newsletter. Please see below for summaries.

Social Determinants of Public Health

One of the sessions at the virtual CSG West annual meeting explored the connections between social determinants and public health.  A person’s housing, mental health and family situation can dramatically impact their health care needs.  Governments have created many effective agencies to deal with the different silos of impact, but rarely do we see efforts to build bridges across those silos.  Such bridges are needed to look at the needs of the whole person.  Some studies show that only 10%-20% of health outcomes are determined by clinical care activities. 

Health Care

As is often the case, an individual’s story can help illustrate a problem.  As a health care agency was assisting a person with substance abuse and mental heath issues they realized that much of the underlying concern was related to an unstable housing situation.  Upon investigation the housing authority discovered his housing insecurity was being dramatically impacted by trouble finding work.  The employment department worked toward finding new employment for the him.  Later, a community health worker realized that many of the problems were rooted in the fact that he couldn’t afford a pair of quality steel toed boots so that he could return to his construction job.  

Each agency works within their area to address departmental concerns, but rarely does the story of a person’s assistance needs remain within one department.  Government can play a role in bringing resources to the table cooperatively.  Work moves at the speed of trust.  Over time government agencies, private partners and non profit groups working together can build up trust as they sit at the table together and work toward a total solution.  

Strengthening the Justice System through Lessons Learned

This was an amazing opportunity to hear from Tarra Simmons on Juvenile Justice System Reform. Tarra is a public defender in Seattle, WA, a registered nurse and also a candidate running for the Washington State legislature. Tarra was formerly incarcerated herself. She was born into a family of addiction and poverty and was in foster care system. Adverse childhood experiences are a common thread of those that are incarcerated. The cycle of traumatic experience repeats among families and across generations. Tarra became a drug user and went to prison for selling drugs as an adult. In prison, she finally received the mental health support she needed. When released, she was faced with no job and massive court debt which shows how these cycles can continue to get passed on. It is hard to move forward in life once you fall into these cycles. She became interested in how we were treating people from the beginning. Juvenile justice has become a focus for her. She states that we want to stop the incarceration before it happens and we need to change the systems that lead to juvenile incarceration. Kids are naturally impulsive and brains don’t stop developing until they are in their mid-late 20s. We need to provide supports early on so that they have that first chance and don’t need a second chance later on. In Washington, the age of youth has been extended to 25 years old for purposes of incarceration.

We also heard from Stephanie Duriez of CSG West on the status of COVID-19 in our prison populations. The case rate of COVID-19 in prisons in the US is 4.5 times higher than the general population and 2.6 times higher for staff working in prisons than the general population. The death rate for people who have contracted COVID-19 while incarcerated is also higher than that of general population.

Across the nation, many states are reporting decreases in their prison populations since the outbreak. About 100,000 people have been released since March which accounts for about 2% of the total prison population. 

Several factors contribute to reduction in prison population

  • A halt in transfers
  • Fewer people on supervision being sent back for low-level offenses
  • Court closures-less people being sentenced
  • Early release, furlough of sentences.
COVID-19 in prisonsCSG

Community Outreach

Safe Sleep Village Opens in August to Slow COVID-19 Spread

En español

As part of its emergency response to COVID-19, Washington County is opening a managed, outdoor camping location for houseless adults in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the houseless community. This outdoor camping project is being called the “Safe Sleep Village” and will be located at Westside Commons, which is the new re-branded name of the property previously referred to as the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro. For more information:

Community Conversation on Mental Health and Well-Being

Register here

Volunteer Safely with SOLVE


Join SOLVE IT for Oregon August 1st to 15th!

SOLVE IT for Earth Day has made a few changes this year. We are happy to announce this event has shifted to SOLVE IT for Oregon! Join a small, community volunteer event, and celebrate Oregon and the planet between August 1st and August 15th.

Each year close to 6,000 volunteers come together with SOLVE to pick up trash, remove invasive weeds, and plant native trees and shrubs. This year will look a little different, as we celebrate 50 years of Earth Day by joining small, neighborhood and individual efforts to improve the environment this August!

Visit here for more information, or to join an event.

Join the Taking Care of Oregon Together Challenge  

You're invited to the Taking Care of Oregon Together challenge, a grassroots fundraising campaign to support SOLVE's ongoing efforts to clean up and care for Oregon.

Step 1 – Click the button below. 

Step 2 – Select the challenge that fits you best. 

Step 3 – Create your goal. 

Step 4 – Share with others via email or social media. 

Thank you for inviting your circle of friends and family to be part of the Taking Care of Oregon challenge!  

Join the Challenge

Looking for Leaders for SOLVE's Annual Beach & Riverside Cleanup

It's that time again! It's time to celebrate and care for Oregon's waterways and coast during SOLVE's annual Beach & Riverside Cleanup, happening between September 19 - October 4.

Do you know you have a natural area or neighborhood in mind that could use a cleanup or some restoration TLC? Are you motivated to lead a volunteer event to help take care of it? Register your project with SOLVE and gain volunteer support, project planning assistance, free cleanup supplies, a registration platform, and more! 

Visit here for more information, or to register a project.

Additional Resources

 House District 30 Links

Federal Delegation Links

Education Links

Utilities Assistance

Food and Housing Assistance

Ben Thomas, a local young scientist in the making, shares the BEST "Science How-To" videos. Please watch below his delightful tutorial on making Foam Soap. I hope this fills you with joy and gives you a fun activity to try with your own families. 

Video link

Be good to yourself and each other. ❤

Onward & Upward,


Capitol Phone: 503-986-1430
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-487, Salem, Oregon 97301