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Bipartisan letter to White House comes in support of governor's COVID-19 disaster request.

COURTESY PHOTO - Oregon's congressional delegation sent a letter to the White House supporting Gov. Kate Brown's federal disaster declaration request.Oregon's congressional delegation asked the White House Wednesday, March 25, to issue a major disaster declaration for the state.

A disaster declaration can provide financial and other assistance to local businesses, nonprofit groups and state agencies.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden wrote a letter to the White House supporting Gov. Kate Brown's request for the declaration because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Oregon is a resilient and forward-thinking state and Oregonians are working hard to secure shelter for people who are homeless and medical care for those who need it."

Lawmakers said that in addition to the serious and growing health toll, the virus' rapid spread "generated massive and unprecedented disruptions." They said Brown activated Oregon's Emergency Coordination Center in early March and has since ordered Oregonians to stay home and non-essential businesses to cease operations.

pmg"We have heard from rural health clinics, hospitals, and providers who are having to lay off employees due to reduced patient care and declining revenue," lawmakers wrote in the letter. "We have heard from heroic frontline health care workers stressed about the lack of test kits and personal protective equipment. We have heard from small-business owners suffering financially and wondering how to put food on the table. We have heard from volunteers in rural fire and ambulance districts who must choose whether to self-quarantine or continue providing critical public safety services to their communities.

"Oregon is a resilient and forward-thinking state and Oregonians are working hard to secure shelter for people who are homeless and medical care for those who need it. But no state will be able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic alone, which is why we urge you to approve Gov. Brown's full request for assistance."


HERE IS THE LETTER

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of Oregon Governor Kate Brown's request for a major disaster declaration for the entire state of Oregon resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oregon incident period for the disaster began on January 21, 2020, and is continuing. The governor is requesting Individual Assistance for residents of Oregon's 36 counties and nine federally recognized tribes.

The rapid spread of the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has caused massive disruption to American life, shuttering schools and closing businesses on an unprecedented scale. Governor Brown fully activated Oregon's Emergency Coordination Center in early March and has since ordered Oregonians to stay home and non-essential businesses to cease operations. The state is reporting more than 260 cases of COVID-19, as of this writing, and eight deaths. These numbers are only projected to increase in the coming weeks and months.

To help with ongoing state efforts, Governor Brown has requested the full suite of Individual Assistance programs. These include Individuals and Households Assistance, Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training, Disaster Care Management, Disaster Legal Services, and Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The governor has also requested the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program statewide.

These Individual Assistance programs will bring levels of great relief to our community members struggling with the pandemic's physical and emotional toll. We have heard from rural health clinics, hospitals, and providers who are having to lay off employees due to reduced patient care and declining revenues. We have heard from heroic frontline health care workers stressed about the lack of test kits and personal protective equipment. We have heard from small business owners suffering financially and wondering how to put food on the table. We have heard from volunteers in rural fire and ambulance districts who must choose whether to self-quarantine or continuing providing critical public safety services to their communities.

Oregon is a resilient and forward-thinking state and Oregonians are working hard to secure shelter for people who are homeless and medical care for those who need it. But no state will be able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic alone, which is why we urge you to approve Governor Brown's full request for assistance. We thank you in advance for your expedited review of this declaration request and look forward to working with you in support of Oregon's 36 counties and nine federally recognized tribes.


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