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Oregon lawmakers OK COVID-19 relief, Warm Springs water system funds

Oregon Capitol
KTVZ file

Includes $500 emergency relief checks for Oregonians still waiting for jobless benefits

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon's legislative Emergency Board on Tuesday approved more than $200 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars to provide more economic support for Oregonians and small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They also approved general funds to address critical water system issues in Warm Springs.

“Today, the Legislature took significant additional steps to assist vulnerable Oregonians whose lives have been turned upside down over the last few months,” House Speaker Tina Kotek said.

“This funding will bring much-needed help to those who are facing the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, including Black Oregonians, front-line workers, struggling small businesses, and laid off workers who’ve been waiting months for unemployment to come through.

"But I know that these dollars won’t go nearly far enough. Without additional support from the federal government, our state and her people stand on the brink of catastrophe. Congress must act to pass urgently needed relief funds so we can weather this storm together,” Kotek said. 

“Today we dedicated over $200 million to help Oregonians still feeling the impacts of this virus,” Senate President Peter Courtney said. “Our communities are hurting. It’s our job to do what we can.”

  • $25.6 million in emergency assistance for small businesses facing financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This supports businesses with no more than 25 employees that have not received support under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or other provisions of the federal CARES Act.
  • $50 million to support music, culture, and community venues and organizations that have been closed, cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.
  • $62 million to the Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency to provide economic relief to Black individuals and businesses. National and state data show that the Black community is one of the communities experiencing a disproportionate share of negative economic and health effects due to COVID-19.
  • $30 million to the COVID-19 Leave Fund for workers who contract or have been exposed to the virus but do not qualify for traditional sick leave.
  • $35 million to fund $500 Emergency Relief Checks to Oregonians who are still waiting for unemployment benefits.

Additionally, the Emergency Board also allocated $3.58 million in general funds for emergency water infrastructure to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs as the tribe faces an ongoing water crisis.

Legislative aides noted that the 2019 Legislature allocated $7.8 million in lottery revenue bond proceeds for Warm Springs water and sewer system improvements -- but the COVID-19 pandemic has hit state lottery revenues hard, so those bon'ds won't be issued.

As a result, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs made a reduced, general-fund request of $3.58 million for critical improvements, including upgrades to treatment plants and installing redundant water mains to address breaks in the existing pipe network.

In a news release Monday updating the status of a weeks-old boil-water order for the Agency Water System, officials noted two recent major repairs to the main lines but said the main community system is still operating at about 50% capacity until the Shitike Crossing main line can be fully repaired.

A solution in the works would be a 12-inch pipe through the existing 14-inch line, though the ultimate goal is a new 16-inch main line, with the goal of a permanent fix late this year or early next year.

"We are still requesting that the community adhere to conservation efforts and to also continue the boil water notice until we can get solutions to the problematic mainlines," the statement said.

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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