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Funds available for local residents, businesses impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wood Village has retooled its Utility Assistance Program to better support the community during the spread of COVID-19. When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the country and spreading into Oregon, city of Wood Village leadership voted unanimously to retool a popular program to better protect the safety and health of its residents.

The Utility Assistance Program had existed for years as a way for the municipality to offer a hand-up to residents in need of assistance. It was funded by employees through voluntary pay roll deductions. In the past, Wood Village has spent between $2,000 and $5,000 a year paying residential water bills.

But facing unprecedented circumstances, Wood Village retooled the program to help even more people during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Utilities are essential services for maintaining health and safety," said Mayor Scott Harden. "We don't want anyone to be left cold, in the dark and unable to maintain proper hygiene."

The fund will now pay water, electric and gas utility bills for both residential and business accounts.

"Economic recovery is vital to surviving the pandemic, so we felt we needed to help businesses as well," Harden said. "This is an opportunity for us to give back to them if they are experiencing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Because of the influx of need, the city also directed more funds into the program. When the city declared a state of emergency, the Utility Assistance Program had only $3,600 available. Now there is $140,000 thanks to added dollars from city events cancelled due to social distancing orders — including the immensely popular annual Easter Egg Hunt and Clean-up Day.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wood Village Mayor Scott HardenThe city also added dollars that remained from recent capital projects that finished under budget, and $100,000 originally slated for developing a façade improvement along 238th Street.

Wood Village residents and business owners can apply for the Utility Assistance Program online at https://bit.ly/3a7UCmx

If unable to complete the application online, call City Hall at 503-667-6211 to schedule an appointment with city staff to complete a paper application.

Beyond the program, Wood Village also discontinued water shutoffs by declaring a state of emergency on March 13. The city also is able to now waive late fees, and turn-off and turn-on fees for water. Because of that declaration, 16 accounts were spared being turned off last month.

"Hand washing is a key fundamental in stopping the spread of the virus," Harden said. "It is hard to wash frequently at home without running water."


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