It is a busy time as we approach the holidays, but we received some great news from Washington, D.C., as Congress approved $900 billion dollars in much needed Coronavirus relief.
The package includes $284 billion for another round of small business aid through the Payroll Protection Program, $300-per-week federal unemployment boost for 11 weeks, $600 stimulus checks for those making up to $75,000, more money for schools and hospitals and an extension of an eviction moratorium.
No one wants to exacerbate the housing crisis and put thousands of Oregonians out of their homes in the middle of winter, and that is why I joined other Oregon lawmakers on Monday to approve House Bill 4401 which extends the eviction moratorium and creates a $200 million fund to support small landlords and tenants.
Landlords can apply to the new landlord compensation fund, and receive money to cover some missed rental payments. However, they are required to forgive 20% of their tenants’ past-due rent. While 80% repayment is helpful, it seems unlikely that landlords can maintain financial stability while giving up one-fifth of their income for an extended period of time. That’s why I believe we need to make support for landlords a priority as we move forward in our efforts to provide relief for pandemic-related impacts.
We also approved HB 4402 to provide limited liability for schools, administrators and teachers that follow the pandemic-related directives and best practices. The education of our children is vitally important, and for many that can best be accomplished in-person. But at the same time we need to safeguard the health of our students, faculty and staff members until the Coronavirus is under control.
Senate Bill 1801 will allow cocktails-to-go which should provide another funding stream for independent restaurant owners who are struggling to keep their doors open during these trying times.
Finally, the Legislature approved $600 million for additional COVID-19 and Wildfire recovery. This money will be distributed by the Legislative Emergency Board in the coming weeks.
In what the media has labelled an anti-shutdown protest by the far right, various militia followers, conspiracy ideologues, and Patriot Prayer adherents stormed our State Capitol during Monday’s Legislative Special Session.
Several of the protestors brandished firearms while others wore body armor, gas masks or helmets and pepper-sprayed Oregon State Police Troopers who were trying to maintain order. I support the right of assembly and lawful protests, but it stretches the imagination to think that people who don protective gear, and arm themselves with firearms, metal pipes, pepper spray and other chemical weapons are attending a demonstration with good intentions. As a result of the unlawful assembly four people were arrested and another person is being sought on various charges.
In the coming weeks, I will be working with other lawmakers, community leaders and constituents to prepare for the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session. Even when I’m not in Salem, I’m still working on issues that impact our lives. We check our messages daily, so if you have a comment, concern or need help with a state issue or agency, please contact my office. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rep. Brad Witt serves House District 31. He may be reached at: