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City of Bend Economic Development Dept. State Level Policy Suggestions in Response to COVID-19

by Ben Hemson03/19/2020 2:55 PM
Updated: 03/19/2020

 The City's Economic Development Department has been working with our state's legislative delegation, notably Representative Helt, to provide policy feedback in the midst of COVID-19 related economic crisis. The following recommendations have been shared with Bend City Councilors, staff, and the state policymakers working on this issue in Salem. 

There are a number of other organizations working on providing their feedback as well, including many of the City's Economic Development partners. This feedback doesn't mean the City won't lend its voice to other initiatives that address needs in our community.

We're sharing this so the business community is aware of ideas being brought forward from Bend and elevated to the state level in search of increased support.

Business Assistance and Economic Policy response to COVID-19 || Updated March 19, 2020

With the order to close restaurants earlier this week, a swift and targeted policy response is needed to protect the financial security of Oregon families and businesses. For the majority of Oregonians their financial security is connected to their employer’s ability to stay open and provide goods and services. To be effective the immediate policy response must be comprehensive and provide both direct assistance to families and support businesses to keep employees working and reduce disruption to services and income. The City of Bend’s Economic Development Department suggests the following targeted state policy changes.

State Economic Stabilization Assistance needed

  1. Get Unemployment Benefits out quickly, double the amount in the first check The Oregonians who were laid off in the last two weeks are predominantly hourly wage earners and are used to receiving wages daily (tips) and weekly (paycheck). The more quickly the Employment Department gets benefits to claimants the better off they will be.
  2. Release State Funds to Oregon Trail cards. This will allow families to get out to stores now to get items for their families. We think that the immediate release should be 200 percent of the typical monthly allocation.
  3. Release everything available in existing housing funds. This will allow more families to apply for and obtain emergency rental assistance and offer an option to homeless Oregonians to be housed in hotel rooms rather than in warming shelters where risk of contamination is high.
  4. Allow a temporary (12 month) Unemployment Insurance Tax suspension. Employers keep their cash and can spend that cash on paying sick leave, paying vendors etc.
  5. Delay Oregon Tax payment deadline to match IRS revised deadlines.
  6. Allocate funds ($10M+) to Community Action Partnership of Oregon (CAPO) network for rental assistance (our local agency is NeighborImpact). Using the existing network with established qualification criteria is essential to getting funds to the most vulnerable families.
  7. Allocate funds ($5M+) to Community Action Partnership of Oregon (CAPO) network for food assistance and logistics. This complements Oregon Trail allocation. Using the existing network with established qualification criteria is essential to getting funds to the most vulnerable families.
  8. Allocate funds ($5M+) to Neighbor Works America network and/ or CDFIs (Craft3) for commercial (namely restaurants and bars) rental/mortgage assistance. It is vital that short term support is available while businesses prepare documentation that will allow them to request an SBA loan.
  9. Allocate funds ($5M+) to Oregon Heath Authority. These funds can be used to reimburse hotels for overnight stays for healthcare workers who are serving at hospitals but don't want to go home due to concern about infecting family members. This will also help maintain our overnight lodging operators.
  10. Use Oregon Food Bank network to distribute sanitation supplies to low income households and to expand meal service delivery to older Oregonians.
  11. Suspend Implementation of the Commercial Activity Tax until 2021.
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