January Updates for House District 5

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Rep. Pam Marsh

January 2021

Dear friends and neighbors,

While the start of a new year didn’t solve all of our problems, I’m optimistic. As difficult as 2020 was, our response to multiple crises demonstrated that we can meet whatever challenges come our way with resilience, tenacity and compassion. As the 2021 legislative session begins, I’m hopeful that the legislature will act quickly and decisively to spur recovery. And, with the inauguration of a new administration in Washington, we have good reason to hope that our country and our state will begin moving toward a more sustainable and equitable future that truly celebrates diversity and fosters unity.

Still, it is undeniable that the pandemic and wildfires have affected every aspect of our lives.  The most vulnerable among us have suffered the most. Low-income workers and people of color have been disproportionately affected by the public health crisis and resulting economic fallout. Small businesses have struggled to pay their bills and keep their employees. Our legislature will need to take bold and even transformative action to ensure that every resident and community across the state shares in a robust recovery. 

Given the pandemic, much of the 81st legislative session will be conducted virtually—including all committee hearings. While I yearn for the day when we can safely open the Capitol, virtual operation will be a boon for those of us who live hundreds of miles from Salem. Until now, Southern Oregon residents who wanted to participate in a legislative hearing were forced to spend four hours (each way) on the freeway for the opportunity to speak for five minutes in front of a committee. Virtual hearings mean that anyone will be able to testify on a bill or policy from the comfort of the kitchen table or office via a computer or telephone. I’m confident that electronic and audio testimony will become a permanent part of the legislative process.

As always, please stay in touch. Under the circumstances, this legislative session promises to be critical to the health and welfare of families and communities. Your feedback, questions, comments and criticism will help us to get it right.

My best,

Representative Pam Marsh

State Representative
Oregon House District 5 - Southern Jackson County

View from East Applegate Ridge Trail

Blue skies over the Applegate from East Applegate Ridge Trail

In this Issue - Quick Links

Wildfire Recovery Updates

Four months after the September 8 Almeda wildfire, we are moving from the response phase of the disaster into long term recovery. This month, clean-up of residential and commercial properties, funded by the state and FEMA, will begin in earnest. As bare ground emerges from beneath ash and debris, devastated neighborhoods in Talent and Phoenix will start to reemerge, preparing for the return of displaced residents and businesses. 

While we are on mile two of the marathon, a few markers show progress:

  • Housing: In early January the legislature’s Emergency Board approved a $25 million allocation to Jackson County Housing Authority to begin planning and construction for permanent affordable and workforce housing. If all goes well, we could have homes ready for occupancy by late in 2022.

    Everyday, displaced individuals families are forced to make calculated, often difficult decisions about whether to stay in or leave the Rogue Valley. Our ability to move quickly to re-establish long term housing could be the critical factor for these neighbors.

  • Governor’s Wildfire Economic Recovery Council report: In October, Governor Kate Brown convened individuals from across the state to “build a roadmap for recovering and rebuilding from the 2020 wildfires.” Senator Jeff Golden, Rogue Federal Credit Union President and CEO Gene Pelham, and I represented Jackson County on the Council. After several months hearing input, including from fire survivors, the council issued this blueprint for future action.

  • Next steps: Recommendations from the Governor’s report will now go to legislative committees. In the State Senate, Senator Golden will chair the Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee; in the House, I will be vice-chair of the Wildfire Recovery Committee chaired by Rep. Brian Clem. The two committees will be charged with implementing the recommendations of the governor’s report and continuing pursuit of a full recovery.

Jefferson Exchange Interview 12-29-20

Jefferson Exchange Interview 12-29-20: Replacing the Manufactured Homes Lost To Fires

Jefferson Exchange
  • Manufactured housing update: Many thanks to Jefferson Public Radio for inviting me on the Jefferson Exchange in late December to talk about clean up and long-term possibilities for residents and owners of the manufactured home parks destroyed in the fire. Listen here.

COVID Vaccine Rollout

If you are reading the headlines, the COVID vaccine news probably has you pulling out your hair.

Early last week, Oregon Health Authority announced that the state would be working with local communities to set up mass vaccination clinics for educators/school staff and adults over the age of 65.

That promising news changed quickly Friday morning, when the federal government announced that the state would not be receiving an increased supply of vaccines–because the federal government has no reserve. The disappointing update is that there is currently no surge of vaccine on the way to Oregon.

However, there is some good news. Statewide, we are administering about 12,000/doses per day, which has been our goal. We continue to prioritize individuals in phase 1A, which includes front line health care workers, long term care residents, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caretakers, and emergency workers.

The latest numbers indicate that we have administered 173,000 doses across the state, which puts Oregon 30th in the nation at 2.8% of population vaccinated. Forty percent of those in phase 1A have been vaccinated. By January 30th 300,000 people, or 75% of those eligible in the first phase, will be complete.

While we are short on the vaccine itself, OHA is working with public health and health care providers to create the infrastructure needed for large-scale vaccine locations, once product is available. The National Guard will be employed at these sites when appropriate.

OHA is also creating mobile clinics to ensure that individuals who cannot attend large site vaccination clinics (for example, fragile residents in long term care or group facilities) will not be left out.

ASSUMING THAT THE VACCINE IS PROVIDED, the state is now planning on the following schedule:

On January 25, educators and school staff will begin to receive the vaccine. This group, totaling approximately 100,000 individuals, could be largely completed within two weeks.

On February 8 Oregon’s 800,000 seniors will become eligible for vaccination, prioritized in four waves:

  1. 80 and older
  2. 75 and older
  3. 70 and older
  4. 65 and above

Please note that the CDC is still recommending two doses. That means that a 2nd dose will need to be set aside for individuals who received dose #1. That also means that it will take longer to roll out administration to everyone who is standing in line.

Finally, there is a new chat tool on the state’s vaccine website to help with your questions. It should pop up on the right side of the screen at https://covidvaccine.oregon.gov/, or scroll to the “vaccine eligibility & FAQ Tool” about 2/3 of the way down the page. We hope that there will be a hotline available soon.

No question that it is frustrating to see this news shift so frequently, when we are so anxious to move on from this pandemic life. Please stay tuned. The new Biden administration has already announced a significant investment in the national vaccine program, and the State of Oregon is getting better at understanding how to get product out and administered. I hope that will result in a predictable, stable and coherent schedule very soon.

Eviction Moratorium & Landlord Fund

The Oregon Legislature met in a one-day special session in December to take action on several measures critical to the pandemic response.

One of them, House Bill 4401, will extend the current residential eviction moratorium and establish funding to help both tenants and landlords remain stable. However, the system that was effective January 1 is different than the moratorium that was in place from April-December 2020.

Here’s a brief summary of current law: Effective January 1, tenants who cannot pay their rent will need to complete a declaration form provided by the landlord. Tenants will be asked to affirm (subject to perjury) that they have suffered financial hardship including:

  • Loss of household income;
  • Increased medical expenses;
  • Loss of work or wages;
  • Increased child care responsibilities or responsibilities to care for a person with a disability or a person who is elderly, injured or sick;
  • Increased costs for child care or caring for a person with a disability or a person who is elderly, injured or sick; or
  • Other circumstances that have reduced income or increased expenses.

Tenants who do not pay rent or fill out the form are subject to eviction. Forms will be available in multiple languages to be accessible to all.

Rent subsidy monies will be available in two pots:

  • Tenants who meet income eligibility standards can continue to apply for rent monies through the community action agency that serves the region. In Jackson County, that is ACCESS. The tenant rent fund will pay 100% of rent owed. The legislature allocated $50 million to this fund in yesterday’s actions.
  • Landlords who have received the completed declaration from a tenant who is behind can apply to a new Landlord Fund that will reimburse 80% of unpaid rent retroactive to April 1, 2020. Landlords who have multiple tenants with unpaid rent can include all requests in a single application. The landlord fund was seeded with $150 million.
  • Landlords participating in the program agree to forgive the 20% of rent not covered by the program and to forego evictions during the period of the moratorium (through June 30, 2021).
  • Note that landlords do not have to seek reimbursement from the fund. In those cases, the tenant will be responsible for repaying all rent owed at the end of the protected period–April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

For purposes of the moratorium period only, the current 72 hour period required between the time rent is due and the initiation of an eviction process is extended to 10 days. This will allow tenants adequate time to fill out and submit the declaration form that provides eviction protection.

Oregon Law Center

While this isn’t a perfect solution, the new rules provide much needed protection to ensure that individuals and families suffering from pandemic or wildfire economic disruption don’t find themselves on the street in January. The legislation also recognizes that both tenants and landlords need the housing sector to be stable and funded. No one wins when rents go unpaid.

For more information and a copy of the declaration, please refer to this (English and  Spanish) material prepared by the Oregon Law Center.   

My Committee Assignments in 2021

I am excited and honored to serve as the Chair of the House Committee On Energy and Environment for the coming session. Our committee priorities will be shepherding policies to promote energy efficiency, energy affordability and environmental justice; moving Oregon to 100% clean electricity; and overhauling the state's recycling and waste prevention system. I am also very pleased to serve as Vice-Chair as the House Special Committee On Wildfire Recovery, which is charged with supporting fire-impacted communities as we rebound from the devastation experienced in 2020.

You can stay informed about the progress and priorities of each committee at these links. I will keep you posted with updates as the 2021 session progresses, but please contact me if you have particular interest in a piece of legislation.  

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