Do What You Can Do 8/20/2020

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Senator Jeff Golden

 *  “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” 
—Helen Keller


This photo of the Milky Way from Rabbit Ears on Mount Ashland was provided by Jack Leishman. Have a photo you've taken and want to share with us? Send it to with the subject “Photo Reminder.” We’d love to feature them.

Those Emergency Checks are Here

   I’ll start by doing something that hasn’t been possible in a long time: use “good news” and “Oregon Employment Department” in the same sentence.

   Despite OED’s best efforts—hiring hundreds of new claims processors, borrowing managers from other state agencies, desperately twisting the dials on a gravely outdated information system—some Oregonians have waited three months, sometimes more, for unemployment checks. Three causes are obvious: a weekly volume of unemployment claims ten times larger than ever before, a frantic attempt to start up the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers and the self-employed who don’t qualify in the existing system, and the Legislature’s failure to upgrade information technology dating back to the invention of the wheel.  That’s water under the bridge, but because of the pandemic or an equally disruptive event that likely lies in our future, we have to learn from this train wreck to avoid another down the road. Along with other legislators, I’ve asked the Secretary of State to carefully study what happened and tell us what’s needed.

    But that’s too late to ease the serious pain that more than a few Oregon families are feeling now. Last month the Legislative Emergency Board allocated $35 million to fund one-time $500 emergency checks for those who’ve fallen in the cracks. And—the good news, finally—a dozen credit unions and banks have just now begun handing them out. In our district, Rogue Credit Union and Umpqua Bank are part of the program. You don’t have to be a member or prior customer of either to qualify. You DO need to

  • Be a current resident of Oregon and 18 years or older
  • Be able to prove your identity and in-state residency
  • Attest that you’re experiencing severe financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the Governor’s Stay Home, Save Lives order
  • Have earned not more than $4,000/month (pre-tax) prior to your income loss due to COVID-19.
  • Not be current on your unemployment payments. Current means you have received all payments for weeks claimed except for the current claim week, or the initial waiting week that’s part of the process.

  Additionally, you may be eligible if you never applied for or were denied unemployment benefits, or if you are not currently on unemployment benefits but have since returned to work. 

     Follow these directions if you think you might qualify for a check; you can also dial 211 for help through the process.  DON’T WAIT--these checks will go out to 70,000 qualified Oregonians on a first come, first served basis, and close to a third have been paid out. RCU and Umpqua will be processing checks Friday, August 21, but not over the weekend. They’ll start up again on Monday, continuing until the funds run out.



   Sticking with the good news theme...we’ve now passed through the middle of August with no serious smoke episodes in the Rogue Valley.  When you think about how hot this summer’s been, how little precipitation led up to it, and the slow-roasting of northwest forests by climate change these last two decades, our air quality’s been better than an extreme optimist would have hoped for.

    Which isn’t to say it’s a slow fire year. The Governor declared a state of emergency this week because of existing and expected fires, and most of California is having an especially tough month.  We’ve been extraordinarily lucky so far in Southern Oregon.  But there’s more to it than that.


Photo from Oregon Department of Transportation

Consider these numbers:  As of two days ago, Oregon had experienced 1,396 fires (mostly from dry lightning storms) that have burned 52,071 acres. Compare that to our ten-year annual average of 2,150 fires (over the course of a whole fire season) and 557,811 acres burned. So, rounding off, in half a fire season we’ve had roughly 2/3 as many fires as the average for a full season, but they’ve burned just 1/10 as many acres. I don’t know the whole mix of factors at play here, but superb fire-fighting has to be one of them. Almost without exception, Oregon’s fires this year have been detected and attacked before they could spread across large landscapes. 

      That’s not just luck.  A thankful bow to the Oregon Department of Forestry, which coordinates and manages firefighting across millions of acres, for their dedication and strategic skill positioning and deploying resources as well as staging personnel and equipment where they’re needed before they’re needed.  This is a highly complex enterprise, and we’re benefiting from the hard-earned experience of ODF staff and its partner agencies. As ODF has been taking big hits from multiple critics on multiple fronts, I want to get that much on the record.

      None of this is to say that immediate suppression of any and all wildfires, the old “Smokey the Bear” approach, is consistently the right thing to do. Most foresters agree that over-suppression led to the huge build-up of woody debris that has fueled the megafires of recent years.  But in the midst of this year’s dry furnace conditions, with a budget crisis that keeps us from following through on forest fuel reduction programs we’d already approved, I’ll go along with old Smokey.


   We are not yet (pardon me) out of the woods. Red blotches continue to grow across the region’s fire maps, and the national preparedness level is at 5, which is the top of the scale. That means we’re about to see supply limitations and competition for wildland firefighting resources, including large tankers, helicopters, Type 1 hotshot crews, and tactical aircraft like the air attack platforms that serve as air traffic controllers above a fire.  

    If you live in the woods or brushy areas, or visit them for fun or mental health breaks, please take extra care with any potential source of fire, and keep an eye out for any trace of smoke or flame. Maybe we can make it to the autumn rains without the misery of some recent summers, and give us in Salem a chance to launch programs that will start making Oregon less combustible in years to come.

The Postal Drama

   There’s little chance that you’ve missed the ongoing battle over the US Postal Service, featuring an intentional  slowdown of service, supposedly to reduce the cost of overtime labor. The timing—just before an election that Donald Trump says he’ll lose if mail-in voting becomes widespread--brought this story to center stage for those concerned about election integrity and the health of our democracy.

     On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden set his podium up in front of Jackson County post offices to clarify what’s at stake. He knows something about vote-by-mail. In 1996, shortly after Oregon pioneered it with groundbreaking legislation, Ron won the first U.S. Senate race ever held exclusively with mail ballots. A couple of postal workers followed him to the podium to share some of their inside perspective. Then I got a moment to underscore a central point:

Post Office

Constricting vote by mail right now will make a lot of Americans take risks they don’t want to take to make sure their ballot gets counted. However often the President makes utterly groundless claims about mail ballot fraud, that’s a cruel and unnecessary choice to force on people.  An hour or two after those comments, the Postmaster General announced he’d put off any other changes that could complicate vote-by-mail until after the election (I’d like to take credit for changing his mind, but that could be a stretch).

     What will a slowdown mean for Oregon’s all mail election? One troubling detail of our law is that a ballot has to reach a county clerk’s office by Election Day, November 3 this year, in order to count. If the legislature goes back into special session, we’ll try to amend that law to count ballots if they’re postmarked by Election Day. But some technical challenges need solving to make that change. OPB offered a good report on what Oregon might have in store.

    Whatever might be coming up, the way to be as sure as possible that your ballot will be counted is to fill it in as soon as you get it and put it back in the mail. Even better, you can take it straight to an official dropbox, easy to locate here.

Stay in touch, and do what you can do.


Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3

Important Updates

Current COVID Information



Business Resources:

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Social Services:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a helpline if you are struggling with mental illness in this stressful time, as well as many support groups of all kinds. The helpline is available from 9 AM to 5 PM at 503-230-8009, or toll-free at 800-343-6264. Visit their website here to find out more.

  • Oregon Recovers has put together a list of resources for those struggling with addiction.
Grocery Store

Meals for All: 

  • Access has put together a lengthy list of local food pantries.

  • Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education’s Food Hero website with resources about meal budgeting, planning, and recipes. Its searchable database has plenty of quick, tasty, healthy and low-cost recipes.

  • The Oregon Food Bank has put together a "Food Finder" page to help locate local pantries and food assistance sites. 

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1703
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-421, Salem, OR, 97301 
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