Hello Friends and Neighbors,
As we have shifted to Phase 1 Reopening, I have been venturing further from home. I’m seeing the same things all of you are – restaurants, stores, hotels, and businesses opening. Lots of visitors. And a relaxing of many of the steps we have taken to successfully reduce the spread of COVID infection.
Economic recovery is critically important to long term livability here at the Coast and along the Coast Range. I’m worried about the businesses that may close, the jobs lost, and the families irreparably affected. And of course, I’m also concerned about a renewal of infections, the effect on your health, and the ability of our health care providers to deal with a surge of people seriously ill.
How do we balance the two?
First we need to acknowledge that both are important. Closing businesses indefinitely is unsustainable. Re-closing businesses if COVID spikes will be devastating. But at the same time we have a disproportionate number of older and vulnerable neighbors here and need to protect them until this crisis passes.
Second, we need to deal with visitors as we always have – with patience, kindness, or at least with tolerance. And we need to do our best to encourage them to behave responsibly as we do the same. We need to create and maintain systems in our parks, restaurants, and grocery stores that minimize risk. And we need to remember that the beaches belong to all Oregonians and not just we few, we happy few close enough to walk to them from home.
Third, we all need to be constructive members of our communities. Find new ways to volunteer or help non-profits, schools, service clubs, religious groups, cultural or arts institutions. If you see risky or offensive behavior, notify local leaders or local law enforcement. Work with your commissioners, councilors, and mayors. And if you encounter state policy that makes no sense or needs improvement, email me.
Finally, personal responsibility is always important. That includes your personal health, your public practices, and your good manners. If you or family members are vulnerable, stay home as much as possible and protect yourself. Social distancing and masks are our best defense.
I’m hearing from some who find face covering unproductive, uncomfortable, claustrophobic, or an insidious assault on personal freedom. Remarkably, in a divided country, and even in a divided town, something as small as wearing a mask can mark you on one side or the other.
We wear uncomfortable seatbelts when we drive, we don’t allow smoking in public places, and we can wear these masks for the time being. They will make a difference.
At the state level, I will tell you I’ve been spearheading an effort by the Coastal Caucus to reimburse our cities and counties for important health and economic investments they have made in response to COVID. I’m trying to get money for our Small Business Development Centers and Community Colleges. I’m working on buy-backs in our fishing and charter fleets. I want funds to compensate public safety officials for new costs. And I’m trying to reimburse businesses for new expenses like plexiglass screens and touchless credit card systems. Our district has suffered the highest level of unemployment and business closures in the state. I’m hopeful this “coastal model” will also work in the wine country, gorge, and in central or eastern Oregon.
I have also been pressing the Employment Department to do a better job with unemployment benefits and payments. The number of unexpected claims received has overwhelmed their staff and antiquated computer systems. And to make matters worse, the Department has been too slow to respond, communicate clearly, or to innovate. Asking people to wait six or more weeks for a payment or even a call back is unacceptable. Simply put, I am not happy! If you or someone you know is in this situation, email my office and we’ll try to help.
(News Flash – Sunday afternoon, Governor Brown announced a new director of the Employment Division.)
How is the disease spread and how do masks protect us? I recently read a post from Dr. Erin Bromage of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, found here, that explains the risk of infection and getting sick with COVID-19 from exposure to the virus in the air or on surfaces. There’s a lot of science in the article about virus droplets and velocity, viral load, indoor spaces and airflow, and exposure time, yet I found it very readable. It also explains why working in a building for several hours with lots of people in a closed area with poor ventilation is a much higher risk than simply passing someone for a second or two on a sidewalk in the open air.
The use of masks is to minimize viral transmission with prolonged exposure within 6 feet and to prevent others from being exposed to your viral illness, should you be infected. Wearing a mask, when appropriate, can be a sign of respect and a collective commitment to each other.
DMV offices opening on June 3: Since March 25, all local DMV offices have been closed. As Oregon begins its phased reopening, in-person services at DMV offices are being restored by appointment. You will need to phone to secure a time.
Lincoln City DMV, 4422 NE Devils Lake Blvd, Suite 1, Lincoln City, OR 97367, 541-994-9655
Tillamook DMV, 308 Evergreen Dr, Tillamook, OR 97141, 503-842-4192
Newport DMV, 158 NE 5th St, Newport, OR 97365, 541-265-2373
McMinnville DMV, 2260 NE McDaniel Ln, McMinnville, OR 97128. 503-472-2900
Dallas DMV, 514 E Ellendale Ave, Dallas, OR 97338. 503-623-4556
Until further notice, DMV offices will only process certain priority transactions:
Standard/Class C Driver License issuance, renewal, and replacement. Beginning on July 6, replacements will be available online and will no longer be done in-person.
ID card issuance, renewal, and replacement. Beginning on July 6, replacements will be available online and will no longer be done in-person.
Driver license reinstatements
Commercial Driver License issuance, renewal, and replacement
Transactions that can be done online will NOT be processed in-person. Visit the DMV’s website for all of the things that can be done online. The DMV will also NOT conduct driving tests for new drivers. New drivers needing tests are encouraged to work with private, third party testing businesses. Vision tests can be conducted by an eye doctor if you complete this form. When DMV offices re-open, please bring the signed form with you to complete your driver license renewal.
Some other things to bear in mind as the DMV restores in-person services are that staff are dealing with a heavy, pandemic-related backlog, a new IT system going live July 6 that staff need to learn, and federal Real ID compliance, which will be available beginning on July 6. This means that processing times will be longer than usual and we will all need to be patient.
Relief for Marine-Related and Fisheries Businesses: ODFW anticipates that nearly $16 million in federal relief aid will be available for Oregon’s marine-related and coastal fishery sectors experiencing significant economic impacts from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act requires distribution of funds no later than Sept. 30, 2021, but ODFW hopes Oregon’s spending plan and applications can be submitted to NOAA by early fall this year to begin the approval and disbursement process. The Coastal Caucus has been pressing to make that significantly sooner.
State parks re-opening in June: State Parks have been closed since March, but now that social distancing rules are being relaxed they will begin to open in phases. Some state parks and campgrounds opened up this past weekend and more will be opening on June 9. To find out more about this timeline and also how to enjoy our parks safely, take a look at OSP’s webpage about their coronavirus response.
Finding healthcare coverage if you are laid off: Because of the pandemic and the job layoffs it has caused, many Oregonians are losing their employer-based healthcare coverage. To help those who have lost their coverage at a time when they need it most, the Department of Consumer and Business Services has put together a guide that includes seven different ways that workers can maintain coverage after a layoff.
Health insurance agents can often be very helpful in navigating your options in finding new coverage. The Oregon Health Authority also has a website with resources for people in all kinds of situations to find affordable coverage that is best suited to them. I encourage you to check these out or share them with people you know who find themselves without health insurance.
This may also be a good time for you and your family to check to see if you qualify for the Oregon Health Plan (Oregon’s version of Medicaid) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which you can apply for any time of year. Note that these state-run programs are reporting long wait times due to high demand, but are an excellent way to access affordable coverage. Oregon has waived income verification for new enrollees. Apply today at ONE.Oregon.gov or call 800-699-9075.
New limited rental assistance program: Last month, the legislative Emergency Board allocated $8.5 million in rent assistance for Oregonians impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. As a member of the Emergency Board I was proud to vote for this expenditure. This rent assistance was dedicated to individuals needing help with rent because of the pandemic and who had been earning at 50% or less of the area median income.
Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) has distributed these funds to regional Community Action Agencies (CAAs), who will distribute this rent assistance. Qualifying payments will be sent directly to landlords.
As we continue to make our way to the other side of this crisis, I’ll continue to send you updates with information about resources that can help you and your family weather the storm.
Be well and stay safe.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10
address: 900 Court St NE, H-471, Salem, OR, 97301