NEWS UPDATE FROM STATE REPRESENTATIVE DAVID GOMBERG: A Special Session, Plus News on Drones, Taxes, DMV and Sea Foam

By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

Governor Kate Brown has announced that she is calling the Legislature to convene a special session on December 13, 2021.

The issue is housing, rent payments, and evictions. Money was made available from the federal government to help tenants affected by COVID to pay past-due rent. But processing those payments to landlords has come too slowly. Simply put, I don’t believe people with applications pending should be evicted because the state has let them down. And I don’t believe landlords should go indefinitely without getting paid. If a special session is needed to fix this, I’ll be there.

During the last session we passed SB 278, designed to provide a 60-day “safe harbor” from evictions for renters while they awaited the processing of their claims for federal assistance, which would go directly to their landlords.  At the time, we assumed that the applications would be processed and the money distributed to meet this timeline.  Unfortunately, although Oregon is among the better states at getting applications processed, there are many thousands who still await payment and are at risk of their landlords losing patience and proceeding to evict them. It could be several months still for all landlords to be paid.

It’s in the interest of both tenants and landlords to see the safe harbor extended until all the dollars are distributed. Here’s reporting from OPB on the problem.

If people have had their applications approved, it makes no sense to see them evicted, potentially homeless, and in any case their lives and those of their children seriously disrupted, because of processing delays. At the same time, here at the coast, many of our landlords are teachers, nurses, and small business owners, who invested in sorely needed housing to create an income stream in their retirement years. They need to get paid! I’m frustrated by the delays, but pleased the new program will compensate 100% of rent due rather than 80% as announced earlier.

Special Session for Housing Assistance

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) received $289 million in federal rental assistance funds to help Oregon renters impacted by COVID-19. As of last week, OHCS and their local partners had paid out close to $150 million in federal emergency rental assistance to over 22,000 households––with Oregon ranking eighth in the nation for federal funds paid or obligated. OHCS and its partners have received more than 25,000 additional applications and continue to review and approve thousands of those applications each week. Nearly $20 million was paid to renters over the previous two weeks. OHCS has calculated that all remaining federal rental assistance funds were requested by December 1.

Negotiations among legislative leaders, stakeholders, landlord associations, and housing advocates have resulted in the following framework to prevent further evictions:

  • Extend eviction safe harbor protections for each individual who has applied for rental assistance.
  • Ensure landlords are paid in full for the rent they are owed.
  • Provide up to $90 million in additional rental assistance to ensure low-income tenants access through the winter.
  • Provide $100 million to transition from large-scale pandemic-related emergency rental assistance to long-term, locally-delivered eviction prevention services.

The package would address the immediate needs of Oregon renters through the winter months. Legislators may also be asked to take on additional time-sensitive issues during the special session that require action before February 2022.

As is often the case, problems affecting Oregon affect Oregonians in different parts of the state differently.

For more information on our part of Oregon, I’ve been monitoring the Emergency Rental Assistance “Dashboard.” The results there show thousands of renters and landlords waiting for applications to be processed with the bulk of the problem focused in the Portland area.

Unpaid OERAP Applications Over 60 Days by County

The Dashboard also shows how long people have been waiting with the average time in Lincoln and Benton Counties being 55 days and Tillamook County at 26 days.

OERAP Application Average Processing Time by County

Essentially, we have fewer people suffering payment delays here, and they are being helped more quickly than most other parts of the state. But with cold, wet winter months looming, we can’t afford to be parochial. A homeless problem anywhere in Oregon is an Oregon problem.

No one should face eviction while rental assistance is on the way.  That’s why it’s critical we show up and work together to find solutions. Having said that, a special session is often unpredictable and opens the door to partisan grandstanding and squabbling.  Nothing is easy.  Stay tuned.

A recently-formed rules committee will consider where drone pilots can take off and land at state parks and beaches. The problem is an increasing number of aircraft, impact on wildlife, and personal privacy.

The committee considering new rules includes drone pilots and advocates, park users, and aviation officials. They plan to complete proposals by April and allow for hearings and public comment before the 2022 summer season.

The rules would apply only to the Oregon Coast and state parks, which are managed by OPRD. Other areas, such as federal lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, have their own rules on takeoff and landing locations.

Oregon has no authority over airspace — only where people take off and land with drones. And legally, they needed legislation to begin that rule-making. The Federal Aviation Administration ultimately manages the airspace drones enter.

Photo of Drone

If you’ve got an expired Oregon license or vehicle registration, it’s time to consider booking an Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle appointment — fast. The grace period to renew already-expired licenses and registrations is coming to an end December 31.

In 2020, the DMV closed its 60 offices across Oregon amid the pandemic, prompting a huge backlog. To help alleviate the pileup of requests and clogged phone lines, multiple vehicle-related moratoriums were put in place throughout the year.

Many services are now available online, so it’s worth checking the DMV website before making a trip. If you have to go in person, make an appointment or just show up and take a number.

Charitable giving during the holiday season this year takes on a new, happier meaning when it comes to tax deductions.

Typically, most people aren’t able to get a tax break when they donate money to a charity if they’re claiming the standard deduction on their federal income tax returns. And nearly 9 out of 10 taxpayers are taking that standard deduction these days. However, Congress has created a special break for giving money to a qualified charity that applies to people who do not itemize. It’s a temporary break, which is set to expire on January 1.

A married couple taking the standard deduction is allowed to claim up to $600 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities in 2021. A single individual, including married people filing separate returns, can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions.

With tax rates ranging from 10% to 37%, a $600 deduction would be worth $60 in reduced taxes to someone in the 10% tax bracket and $222 to someone in the 37% bracket. It must be a cash donation — not goods or your time — and given to an organization approved by the IRS, not just a friend who is doing good work in the community.

Between king tides, winter storms, and gusty winds, we’re seeing huge masses of sudsy stuff on the beach that can look like snow. But what exactly is all that sea foam and where does it come from?

What it isn’t is a form of pollution or soap – it’s exactly the opposite, in fact – all completely natural.

Dr. Bill Hanshumaker, with the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, said that essentially foam in the ocean is created by tiny little phytoplankton that have died and how their skeletons change the surface tension of the water. The more phytoplankton, the more dead ones you have. The more skeletons of phytoplankton you have out there, the more surface tension and the more bubbles you have in the form of sea foam.

Check out this interesting sea foam article and you’ll be the best informed beach walker on the sand!

Photo of Sea Foam

I’ll be attending the Oregon Business Summit on Monday, doing a Lincoln City morning radio show and Tillamook leadership update on Tuesday, followed by the Pacific/Nestucca Chamber Award Luncheon, joining Lincoln County mayors for breakfast on Wednesday and then speaking to the Leadership Lincoln program. I’ll also be participating in the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services Thursday morning followed by a presentation to the Waldport City Council, and Friday – gosh – Friday I’m pretty much free so far!

Hope to see you out there somewhere!

Warm Regards,

phone: 503-986-1410
address: 900 Court St NE, H-480, Salem, OR, 97301