Fall 2020 COVID & Fire Updates

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Rep. Pam Marsh

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Two weeks beyond the November 3 election, it's time to focus on what comes next.    

Make no mistake, we have a pile of work ahead of us. As a result of the horrific Almeda fire, our region is now ground zero for several of the state's most intractable issues. We have a housing crisis in a county that already had a 1% vacancy rate. We are grappling with the aftermath of wildfire and trying to understand how to protect ourselves from future disasters.  We need to figure out how to ensure equity and inclusion in the community we rebuild. And we have seen, firsthand, that the victims of climate change are most often our most vulnerable neighbors.

And this disaster came on top of a pandemic that had already significantly impacted our tourism-focused economy.

In this strange and difficult time, it is not hyperbole to state that the work we take on in the next two years will determine the health, safety, and stability of our community for decades to come. We face an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation that will demand the best from elected officials at every level of government. 

But the real heavy lifting will come from all of us. Politicians have a role, but our future will reflect the multitude of small and large decisions we make individually each day: going out of our way to patronize a local business hard hit by the pandemic; sharing a spare bedroom with a fire survivor; delivering groceries to the food bank; joining CERT; giving money where it is most needed; or speaking up to ensure that the place we live in is inclusive and welcoming to all. 

Civic life can be hard, complicated and messy, but it is always worthwhile. Now, more than ever, every one of us needs to step up to take care of our community. 

Thank you for voting. But even more, thank you for your partnership in the work ahead. 


Representative Pam Marsh

State Representative
Oregon House District 5 - Southern Jackson County

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In this Issue - Quick Links

COVID Restrictions Expanded Statewide

Last week Governor Kate Brown announced a statewide two-week period of increased restrictions intended to curb accelerating COVID-19 case counts. It starts today, Wednesday, November 18 and continues through December 2. 

After two weeks, the situation will be reassessed. It is likely that some hotspot counties will need longer to curb transmission of the virus.

Recognizing that social gatherings are the primary factor involved in spread of the disease, the freeze implores Oregonians to limit private in-person meetings to either two households or the same 6 individuals in a closed group. If you live alone, choose up to 5 other people to be in your group. Even when gathering with your group indoors, you are encouraged to where a mask, keep physical distance and frequently wash your hands.

See a list of what's affected by the freeze below or here.

The additional restrictions are in response to significant increases in our COVID numbers that are threatening to overwhelm hospital capacity. The number of COVID patients in our hospitals has increased over 200% in less than a month.

This article published yesterday in Willamette Week explains more about the current situation: Oregon Hospitals are Nearly Full Already and COVID is Getting Worse

Without action, deaths of both COVID patients and those with other life-threatening conditions who cannot access hospital beds will undoubtedly increase. 

None of this is easy. We often think of the upcoming holiday period as a welcome break from regular life, so these restrictions feel especially onerous. Thank you for doing your part to help us get through this.

Two-week Freeze Restrictions List

Support for COVID-impacted Businesses

On November 17, Governor Brown announced that the State will commit $55 million in financial assistance to support Oregon businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

These funds will be allocated to counties to distribute, with a priority for the hospitality industry, businesses impacted by the freeze, small businesses, and women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Tribal-owned businesses. Each county will receiving a base of $500,000 plus a per-capita allocation of the remainder of the funds. Counties will be responsible for deciding how businesses apply to receive funds and communicating the application process to businesses. Businesses interested in applying should contact their county for more information.

Workers who are laid off by the new restrictions—if they previously made a COVID-related unemployment claim and have benefit eligibility remaining—can re-start their claim, rather than filing a new one. 

State Providing No-cost Wildfire Debris Cleanup

On November 16, the Oregon Debris Management Task Force announced that the State will provide no-cost wildfire ash and debris cleanup for all homes and businesses in the eight counties affected by the disastrous September wildfires, including mobile home parks, second homes, businesses, and other structures.

Home and business owners that opt into this government-led wildfire cleanup program will pay no upfront costs for any cleanup work. Additionally, no government agency--state, federal or contractor--will seek payment from any insurance policy unless it is specifically designated for debris removal or left over after the home or business is completely rebuilt.

Property owners need to sign a Right of Entry (ROE) form to allow cleanup crews onto their property to remove ash and structural debris, hazard trees, concrete foundations, and burned vehicles. To submit your Right of Entry form and for more information, visit wildfire.oregon.gov/cleanup or call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700.

Wildfire cleanup is a two-step process. Step 1 is removal of household hazardous waste, which is dangerous to people, communities and the environment. This work is nearly completed in all fire-impacted counties.

Step 2 is removal of ash and debris. The State is currently hiring contractors to carry out this work, scheduled to begin in December 2020. The task force is working closely with local governments to determine cleanup priorities for each area. Given factors such as weather impacts, property access limitations and the large area to be covered, Step 2 is estimated to take approximately 6 to 18 months to complete statewide. As the state task force gets contractors on board, more clarity on timing will be provided.

FEMA will reimburse the state for a portion of eligible costs. The State of Oregon will fund the remaining costs, regardless of FEMA reimbursement. Initial estimates put the debris cleanup tally at over $600 million, including $326 million for ash and debris removal and $295 million to remove damaged trees.This estimate is preliminary and is likely to change.

Resources for Manufactured Homes Residents

Manufactured homeowners and residents can find a list of fire recovery resources in English and Spanish at my legislative website:

Fire Recovery Resources for Manufactured/Mobile Housing Residents & Home Park Owners

Recursos de recuperación de incendios para residentes de casas prefabricadas/móviles y dueños de parques de casas móviles

Please share this webpage with anyone who might find it useful. We know that our manufactured homeowners have specific questions about tenancy and ownership responsibilities, and we want to make sure they can access all the information they need.  

State Invests in Emergency Alert System

We know that our local emergency notification system failed to alert many or most residents during the Almeda fire. Reports from other regions indicate that this was a common problem.

In response, the state Emergency Board has approved a $1.4 million investment in a statewide emergency notification system that will incorporate the variety of local systems currently in use. This is very good news for our region and the state and should provide some peace of mind that notification will be more robust in the future.

State and local agencies and organizations have noted that there is inconsistent access to emergency communications, alerts, warnings, notifications (AWNs), and information across
Oregon. AWNs are critical to effectively mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and emergency incidents, including the current pandemic, an increasingly devastating and dangerous wildfire season and as winter approaches.

The inconsistent access to information can be due to a variety of factors including location, language, technology, and/or access to internet/broadband/social media. Some agencies and
organizations with a responsibility to disseminate AWNs lack the means to do so, and among those that do, there is no standardization of training or best practices within Oregon. Of Oregon’s 36 counties, 16 lack access to issue emergency alerts via FEMA’s Integrated Alerts and Warnings System (IPAWS), the only current way to reach wireless subscribers that have not chosen to opt in to a local system.

Technology related to public messaging and AWNs has significantly evolved and represents a tool that Oregon can and should use to respond to disasters and emergency incidents. The State Interoperability Executive Council (SIEC) has indicated that a statewide approach to AWNs should be a priority for the state and has included this as an objective in the State
Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP). There is unanimous support of AWN stakeholders for an integrated, single statewide system.

This statewide system will provide:

  • A single, statewide approach, utilizing one platform and a single alerting plan.
  • A federated system of accounts with data sharing.
  • A set of identified tools that provides agencies with the capabilities they need for all phases of the emergency/incident but preserves their ability to procure other features needed to meet their mission needs.
  • Full alignment with SCIP Goals, uses “Team Approach” to AWNs.
  • Standardized training and interoperability between agencies during large emergencies.
  • Encouragement for voluntary participation from counties/local jurisdictions by providing service for them.
  • Increased capability to send IPAWS alerts for the 16 counties that do not currently have a solution.

This process will be accomplished through a statewide contract with a vendor utilizing a single master account that incorporates a system of federated “user” accounts for each agency/jurisdiction. This approach would leverage current state, county, and local investments in different systems and would allow individual agencies and organizations to add additional services above the standard base set of features, if desired. The Everbridge platform is currently believed to be the widest deployed platform within the state and the pricing and base feature set assumes this platform would be selected.

The software is reliable, currently approved and in use within Oregon, and is easily implemented once procured. The vendor also has extensive experience and expertise in statewide implementations of such systems.

If procurement of the Everbridge software is approved, the Statewide Interoperability Program estimates a near-statewide implementation of Everbridge within six months of procurement; however, the system will be immediately accessible by several agencies including the Governor’s Office and the Office of Emergency Management to respond to wildfires, the coronavirus pandemic, and other emergencies.

'Project Turnkey' to Shelter the Unhoused

I’ve been working with some wonderful partners to develop Project Turnkey, a proposal to use state funding to purchase hotels and motels to house COVID-positive individuals, our homeless neighbors, and possibly wildfire refugees.

The legislature's Emergency Board has allocated $30 million to fund this work in counties that have been impacted by wildfires, including Jackson, and an additional $35 million for the balance of the state. 

For more, see this article published yesterday by KTVL News 10: Initiative to convert hotels and motels into shelters moves forward locally

Heartfelt thanks to the League of Oregon Cities, Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon Community Foundation, Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, and other stakeholders for the partnership that brought this to fruition. 

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