As The Smoke Clears

Senator Wagner

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe as wildfires continue to burn across the state. The loss of life and homes is truly heartbreaking. As extreme weather and fire conditions continue to test us, I am incredibly grateful to the brave firefighters, first responders, and all of the Oregonians that have donated their time and resources to assist evacuees. 

Scroll to the end of this newsletter for a list of resources, especially if you or someone you know has been affected by the wildfires. None of this is easy and we'll have a tough road to recovery - thank you for looking out for your family, friends, and neighbors. We are all in this together.

Throughout the pandemic, the outdoors offered some solace as we physically distanced to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To have that option taken away as a safer reprieve is yet another sacrifice, but I am confident that we will get through this and emerge more resilient. Until the smoke clears and air quality improves, please stay inside as much as possible and keep doors and windows tightly shut.

Even if you cannot smell smoke any longer, the air may still be very unhealthy, which is why it's important to check government resources that are keeping track of air quality. Additionally, smoke inhalation can cause people to experience symptoms that are similar to those of COVID-19. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the differences described in the graphic below. 

Smoke vs COVID-19 Symptoms

FEMA, OED Assistance Programs

This week, the Oregon Employment Department launched the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. Search “LWA” on the Unemployment Division’s main website and find the Q&As about LWA. The LWA is the program to partially restore the $600 supplement to UI benefits, with $300 per week coming from FEMA funds. Unfortunately, because of pressures on FEMA resources from hurricanes and from wildfires across the West, that temporary supplement ended on September 5th, but all UI recipients are eligible for several weeks of back-payments leading up to that date.

The Department also has an update on Oregon Wildfires on the main website that can help answer some questions about how OED can continue to reach you, and a Q&A available here. Additionally, they have added a “button” to the contact us form to help us get to people who need immediate attention as a result of the wildfires. Select “I evacuated due to the fires” in the How We Can Help section, and describe your issue (ex: “I need a new ReliaCard or to set up Direct Deposit”) in the issue description box.

Thanks to Governor Brown’s efforts, the federal government approved a Major Disaster Declaration in Oregon. That means Oregonians impacted by wildfires can now register for individual assistance from FEMA to help with temporary housing, home repairs, and more. For more info, call 800-621-3362 or visit this website.

COVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program

A new program launched this week to help people who work in Oregon and need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure, but do not have access to COVID-19-related paid sick leave. The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) will administer the COVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program, which was created with $30 million received from the federal government to help Oregon respond to the coronavirus pandemic. 

People who qualify will receive a $120 per-day payment for up to 10 working days ($1,200 total) for the time they are required to quarantine. Employees can apply online starting Wednesday, Sept. 16. The application form is available in English, Spanish, and Russian. Those who do not have access to electronic applications can call 833-685-0850 (toll-free) or 503-947-0130. Those who need help in a language other than these three can call 503-947-0131 for help.

Upcoming Legislative Days

Legislative days happen during the interim between legislative sessions, typically about every eight weeks, lasting three or four days. Committees will be holding informational hearings on topics that could lead to legislation in the 2021 legislative session. We also will hear updates on the implementation of past legislation and reports from state agencies and task forces.

September legislative days are scheduled to occur remotely during the week of September 21st. If you’re interested in following what’s happening in the different Senate, House, and Joint committees, you can find agendas on the Oregon Legislative Information System OLIS and look under “Meetings Today” to see which committees are meeting.

Adi's Act: Partnership with Lines for Life

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Lines for Life recently announced a partnership to launch the Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program for school districts. In collaboration with local suicide prevention champions, these institutions will support school districts in implementing and sustaining evidence based and racial equity centered suicide prevention policies and plans. This critical work will save lives, especially in these times of adversity and sacrifice.

Youth suicide prevention is an issue that I care deeply about; in the 2019 legislative session, I co-sponsored and passed the legislation that requires school districts to develop and implement youth suicide prevention plans supported by the Lines for Life partnership with OHA and ODE. You can learn more about “Adi’s Act” by watching my floor speech or reading this article.


Beginning the 2020-21 School Year

A belated happy beginning of the 2020-21 school year to families and educators here in Senate District 19! My family – including my four teenagers at home – knows the school year is not beginning the way many of us hoped for. If we stay vigilant, I know we can and will get back to in person instruction. Continue watching your distance, wearing your masks and washing your hands, and take a look at the graphics below for an explanation of the requirements and metrics for in-person instruction from the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority.

OHA School Reopening MetricsOHA School Reopening Exceptions

Census Deadline - September 30

Get Counted

We are now only two weeks away from the September 30 Census deadline. If you have not yet completed the Census, there are a lot of ways to do so. Please share and the various ways to fill out the Census with your community.

It takes less than 10 minutes and will help Oregon for the next ten years, including the allocation of wildfire fighting resources!

Remember– there are no citizenship questions on the Census, it is confidential and it is available in multiple languages. You can lean more by visiting the Oregon Counts 2020 websiteAnd, of course, a shout out to Representative Andrea Salinas, who is the co-chair of the complete count committee – we thank her for all of her contributions to this very important work!


General Resources

How You Can Help

Mask Up to Protect Your Neighbors

Although its difficult to confront more than one disaster at once, please remember that COVID-19 remains a very serious threat. Look out for one another by continuing to follow our statewide public health guidance.

Please let me know if you need any assistance in the weeks and months ahead. My office and I will work to connect you with resources and get answers as quickly as possible.


Sen Wagner Signature

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner
Senate District 19

email: I phone: 503-986-1719
address: 900 Court St NE, S-223, Salem, OR, 97301