Drazan: End epidemic with science, not divisive rhetoric
The current health crisis remains serious and will require our best efforts to combat COVID-19 and safeguard public health. The pandemic will come to an end through science and medicine, not the rhetoric of those who use the disease to divide.
The legislature has a responsibility to come together to counterbalance the deep harm experienced by hardworking Oregonians and their families, impacted by school closures, job losses and growing uncertainty.
Like it or not, we now know Gov. Brown's mandates will continue for the majority of our state into the foreseeable future. As we care for our most vulnerable, it is critical that we look ahead to how we can work together to repair the damage we will see in our communities and families for years to come.
Oregon leaders have used federal dollars to respond to COVID-19 and supported those impacted by shutdowns, but the work is far from complete. As federal resources become scarce, there is much we can do as a state to help.
Oregon House Republicans propose starting with the following actions to support economic recovery for all Oregonians:
Improve access to the safety net that Oregonians depend on, including responsive access to food programs, telehealth services and unemployment benefits.
Return to in-person instruction as soon as it is safe to do so, creating flexibility through learning pods and small group options for students not succeeding in an online environment.
Review all legislation for its impact on the cost of living and housing in Oregon, to ensure the legislature does not make it harder to keep people housed and employed.
Continue targeted supports for businesses and reduce business fees — specifically, for those quantifiably impacted during this time of government interruption in market activities.
Increase support for workforce development and community colleges to ensure that as the economy recovers, Oregonians are prepared with the skills they need to succeed.
Suspend agency rulemaking not directly related to public health and safety.
Budget responsibly, prioritize core state functions and cut nonessential spending Oregonians can no longer afford to sustain.
Pass COVID-19 liability protections for schools, nonprofits and businesses, while ensuring workers are served by a strong workers compensation system.
This is not the time for the state to pick winners and losers or to pile on more mandates, taxes and regulations that drive up the cost of living. This is the time to step up and do all we can to help struggling Oregonians.
It is important to remember, this is a financial crisis shouldered by a hand-picked list of businesses and thousands of still-jobless workers.
This is a recession of grave proportions for families and individuals who can least afford it.
We're now eight months in, and far too many Oregonians remain unemployed or underemployed. Many more will join them in the days ahead as employers already teetering on the brink close their doors permanently as a result of extended lockdown orders.
We have to do more to support our local businesses and restore jobs. We have to do more to protect Oregonians from rising suicide rates and mental health struggles tied to overwhelming anxiety and isolation. We have to have plan for getting our kids back in the classroom, as soon as it is safe to do so. Quite simply, we cannot give up now.
While the state's financial reserves are flush, most Oregonians and Oregon businesses impacted by shutdowns have used up any savings they may have had.
While the state's cash flow has remained stable, shutdown orders have strained family budgets.
Loans have been exhausted. Increased federal unemployment benefits are expiring. The crisis is worsening, and the needs are growing.
Oregon's public health response has been the state's central focus and we will continue to work together to keep Oregonians safe. But now is the time to ensure our economic and social support response is equally robust.
It is time for steady, bipartisan leadership that will address the problems facing our state, that if left unanswered will threaten not only stability and safety, but optimism and hope.
There could be no greater risk to our future, no larger challenge to overcome than hopelessness — whether it is in the heart of an individual or the rows of vacant, empty main streets where hope and opportunity once thrived.
We have to see this crisis for what it is, one individual and one family at a time, and work to solve problems and help our neighbors until we get through this. The commitment to solve problems, the willingness to set aside any differences and tackle this moment together is required of all of us if we are to not simply see an economic rebound but fully restore the promise of our state and hope in the hearts of her people in the months and years to come.
Christine Drazan is the Oregon House Republican leader and represents Canby, Estacada and unincorporated Oregon City areas.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.