PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Governor Kate Brown has called a special session in order for the legislature to consider $800 million in relief to support Oregonians.
Brown will convene the special session at 8 a.m. on Monday. At the session, the legislature will discuss COVID-19 aid along with critical policies concerning wildfire relief. Although vaccines have finally hit the ground in the state, Oregonians are continuing to navigate the hardships brought on by the pandemic.
“I continue to call on Congress to pass another robust coronavirus relief bill to bring support to the American people,” Brown said. “But these calls have not yet been heeded. It is clear that states must act on their own to provide a bridge until federal help arrives. This is why I am calling on legislators from both sides of the aisle to come together in the best interests of the state.”
Brown’s budget priorities include funding for vaccine distribution and contact tracing, wildfire prevention and community preparedness, as well as support for reopening schools.
“We must protect Oregonians now, as we face some of our hardest days, whether by getting critical resources into the hands of those most in need, keeping a roof over people’s heads, or recognizing the incredible toll of this virus on our small businesses and restaurants,” she said. “Oregon must act to bridge the gap as we continue to wait to see federal relief. I thank legislators for their work in addressing these critical issues next week, and I look forward to our progress.”
Senate President Peter Courtney’s office told KOIN 6 News there are three bills in the works, including eviction moratorium support for tenants and landlords, a school liability bill and a restaurant package. Legislation allowing cocktails-to-go is reportedly on the table — something Oregon restaurants have been continuously pushing for.
“These are tough times,” Senator Courtney said. “The Governor has made the very difficult decision to call a special session. We’re going in to help Oregon and her people. There’s a lot to do…tenants, landlords, schools, food security. We’ll get it done.”
The third bill would extend the eviction moratorium through June of 2021 and provide rent relief to both tenants and landlords. If passed, landlords could apply for a grant to cover 80% of past-due rent they’re owed.
“The fund will prioritize those really small landlords and landlords who are having the greatest difficulty,” explained Alison McIntosh, the policy and communications director at Neighborhood Partnerships. “And then once the payment has been made, a letter will be sent to the tenants saying this back-debt has been paid, you don’t owe this anymore.”
Without this relief bill, people like Ryan Bowser fear their families could end up homeless when the moratorium expires. Bowser said he had to stay home from work to take care of his kids when schools closed, causing his family to fall behind on rent.
“We’re like $3,400 in the hole and we don’t have $3,400 over the course of the next six months,” he said. “I mean, even if we pinch our pennies, I just don’t see a path forward with how back we are now.”
Courtney said this issue is the driving force behind the special session. State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger will be consulted to ensure the session is conducted in a healthy and safe environment.
There is still no relief on the table for the 70,000 Oregonians who are about to lose unemployment benefits.