Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Much of the Central Coast and Coast Range may be starting back to work today.
I’m going to talk about details in a moment. But first I have a few thoughts to share.
Two months ago we faced this pandemic with a sense that we were all in it together. But as I said last week, now we appear to be divided. We’re angry that our businesses or jobs are at risk. We’re angry that we haven’t yet received money we deserve. We’re angry that other people may be putting our vulnerable family members at risk. And increasingly we seem angry at each other.
I’ve seen contentious public meetings and confrontations in parking lots. I’ve seen new neighbors’ cars vandalized because they don’t yet have Oregon license plates. I’ve seen businesses purposely violate public orders to gain advantage over others following the rules. I’ve seen the glares between the masked and the unmasked in grocery stores.
If I have learned anything in my time in the Legislature, it is that good people don’t always agree. The Coast is known for our hospitality. We need to remember to show that hospitality to each other.
If you are opening a business, please do so as safely and responsibly as possible. To do less is to risk closures again. And if you feel unsafe, please stay home and minimize contact with others. I look for the best in people and usually find it. Let’s get through this – together – by respecting each other and responding as a community.
And now the news…
Early Thursday, Governor Brown announced the phase one re-opening of 28 counties including Lincoln, Tillamook, and Yamhill Counties. Restaurants, bars, and taverns can open. Retail stores can reopen. Barbers, salons, and tattoo parlors can reopen.
Each must apply safety measures and social distancing: retail | restaurants and bars | salons and personal services | outdoor recreation | sporting events | large gatherings, including concerts and festivals
Large gatherings and events are still not permitted. Hotels, campgrounds, and vacation rentals may remained closed by local cities and counties. Schools are not reopening, and Governor Brown said current planning is aimed at ensuring kids can reenter school next fall.
For the most up to date information, please bookmark the official reopening website and check it often.
All of us have a stake in the success of required safety measures. First they are designed to keep us and people we come in contact with healthy. And second, if not successful and if infections increase, our counties can again be closed.
The responsibility for checking that businesses are following guidelines rests with local law enforcement and Oregon Occupational Safety and Health, as well as other state agencies depending on the type of business.
Statewide Reopenings: On May 7, Governor Brown announced Reopening Oregon, her plan for restarting public life and business. This included the statewide lifting of certain restrictions, some new statewide guidance, and a phased process for county-by-county reopening of other businesses and facilities.
- As of May 1, medical and dental clinics were permitted to offer non-emergency procedures.
- As of May 5, outdoor recreation areas where physical distancing could be maintained were allowed to open.
- Statewide restrictions on stand-alone furniture stores, art galleries, jewelry shops and boutiques will be lifted today.
- Statewide restrictions on childcare facilities, summer school, camps and youth programs will be lifted today.
- A new statewide requirement that employees in businesses where physical distancing cannot be maintained must wear a face-covering. These include grocery stores, pharmacies, public transit, salons/personal services, and ridesharing services.
- A strong recommendation that face-coverings be worn by everyone in any indoor public space, especially where six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
Vulnerable populations should still stay at home as much as possible. There has been no change in the guidance to limit visits to nursing homes and hospitals. Stay home if you’re sick. Limit nonessential travel, including travel from ‘closed’ counties to ‘open’ counties for services. Keep up hygiene and sanitation. And telework if possible. The state has seen a rising number of COVID-19 cases and an increase in the percentage of tests coming back positive. That could give Oregon pause.
Only time will tell whether Oregon’s reopening was timely or too hasty. But a look at how Oregon compares with other states helps explain why Governor Brown is comfortable pushing forward. Compared with many other states venturing back out, Oregon is in relatively good shape.
Potential Budget Impacts: The state revenue forecast will be released on May 20 and the outlook is grim. With people not working, income tax revenue will decline. With people not driving, gas taxes will decline. Lottery dollars and lodging taxes are obviously down as well.
With early projections of a possible shortfall as deep as $3 billion for the current period, balancing the state budget will require difficult choices. Governor Brown has requested that state agencies provide proposals to reduce their respective budgets by 17% for the upcoming fiscal year that starts July 1. These budget reduction lists provide a window into a worst-case scenario for our state. But no cuts have been made at this point and these lists are not final.
Thanks to prudent fiscal management, Oregon is the most prepared it has ever been for a recession. Our state has saved about $1.5 billion in reserve funds to help stabilize our schools and other critical services during an economic downturn. By using a portion of these reserve funds to protect key programs, we can reduce the level of cuts needed to schools, health care, transportation, and public safety.
In times of crisis, Oregonians rely on state services more than ever. Cutting state services will be a last resort. I will do all I can in the coming weeks and months to find creative solutions to minimize impacts on the critical services that Oregonians are counting on, including health care and education.
Finally, later today I will join a meeting to the Emergency Board and vote on proposals to allocate $1.39 billion in federal funds to offset state COVID expenses, reimburse cities, counties, and tribes, fund new programs, and enhance our reserves.
You can watch this meeting starting at 1 pm at https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2019I1/Committees/EB/2020-05-15-13-00/Agenda
Stay safe, stay well, get a good mask, and let’s safely get back to work!
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10