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Business organization agree stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority but says the state needs to do more to save jobs

PMG FILE PHOTO - The marque at the Aladdin Theater.Business organiztions are cautiously supportive of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's new Stay at Home order, but some warned that state government must do more to prevent further closures and layoffs.

In an executive order issued Monday morning, March 23, Brown said Oregonians should stay home as much as possible to fight the spread of COVID-19. The order directed a limit number of businesses to close, like hairdressers, but said others can remain open if they maximize working from home and keep their remaining employees six feet apart.

"Oregon businesses support the governor's efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus. That must be our top priority," said Sandra McDonough, President and CEO of Oregon Business and Industry. "We also appreciate that Gov. Brown recognizes that the economic fallout from this crisis is impacting household incomes across Oregon, as companies shut down and workers are released."

But McDonough also called on state government to take immediately steps to help those businesses harmed by the restrictions to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the deadly disease.

"We also are stressing that the state must be developing plans immediately to assist the many businesses, especially Oregon's small businesses and our hospitality industry, that have been devastated by this crisis, whether they have closed or have seen substantial reductions in transactions," McDonough said.

McDonough's organization represents many businesses in Oregon, including Hampton Lumber, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Deschutes Brewery, Madden Industrial Craftsmen, EVRAZ Oregon Steel Mills and more.

The Portland Business Alliance issued an unqualified statement of support, however. It said, "The top economic priority of the business community in our region is an effective public health response. The faster the virus is contained, the faster our economy can resume."

"A statewide 'stay home, stay healthy' order provides certainty across regional boundaries."

Both business organizations joined 29 others in the region signing onto a lengthy list of recommendations to help Oregon survive the restrictions being imposed as of the last week. Although the organizations said they understand the seriousness of the situation, they also said that some of the steps being taken to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus are forcing businesses to close and throwing their employees out of work.

"While public health officials are working to address the crisis, we encourage you to hear the voice of businesses in your region and our recommendations for solutions that will help mitigate the impacts on our economy. Your actions now will help avert an economic catastrophe in the near and long term as we move towards recovery and long-term resiliency," said a letter addressed to state elected and policy leaders.

The first recommendation is, "Do no harm." As the letter explained, "We ask that when formulating actions that impact our economy that you do not unintentionally harm the future of jobs. Well thought policies and solutions must consider the impact to the business community and include these voices at the table."

Other recommendations include:

• Coordinate clear, consistent shelter-in-place policies with input from the business community.

• Increase staffing at unemployment offices to better process applications.

• Allow Portland business to choose to participate in the city's new Clean Energy Fund tax because it is not based on profits.

• Delay the renewal of the Portland Gas Tax because government policies are increasing the need for delivery services.

• No new property tax ballot measures.

• Replace the moratoriums against residential evictions with tax abatements for landlords who are willing to agree.

• Encourage development by reopening the Portland permitting center and speeding the transition to digital permitting.

• Speed up the construction of tax-supported affordable housing.

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