Wagner: How we can build back better in Oregon
The difficulties of the past year and a half are far-reaching. When COVID-19 hit Oregon and when the first case was diagnosed, it was with an employee at the elementary school my children attended. It felt close to home for all of us, and especially members of our community.
I chaired our local school board at the time, and like many institutions we made a series of tough decisions to do all we could to protect the public health and wellbeing of our kids, our households and our entire state.
Early 2020 was marked by fear, and that fear hasn't quite left all of us. Impressively, it was also marked by hope, and confidence that we will get to the other side. I know we will. That's because Oregonians united to look out for each other, and we continue to. Despite misinformation and in the face of adversity, we proved that we are capable of rallying for a common goal —to keep each other safe.
Additionally, challenges regularly faced by Oregon's residents as well as weaknesses in our systems were made bare. Housing insecurity, joblessness, technology gaps and access to support services were chief among them. So, the Oregon Legislature took action to make progress toward addressing those needs.
Over the course of official meetings and legislative sessions, we put the bipartisan CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act dollars directly into our communities to meet their own unique needs. These investments have all been informed by individuals who know their neighborhoods, the services most needed and what will ensure an equitable recovery as we come out of this truly challenging part of modern history.
The Legislature also took action to keep Oregonians housed, expand unemployment assistance, support vulnerable Oregonians and provide resources to small businesses. We built on our work to prevent, mitigate and respond to wildfires, and passed additional environmental protections.
I'm proud of what we've accomplished thus far, and I know we have more work to do.
As we did before, the Legislature will rally to meet Oregon's greatest needs. Our previous investments and policy changes were shaped by individuals and families in Oregon, reminding us of how hearing from you is the most important part of our jobs as legislators.
With that in mind, I will be hosting a series of town halls to provide a venue to hear from educators, parents, health care providers, retail workers and others on the front lines. I want to know what worked and what didn't. What's changed and how we address critical needs in our new reality. Where do we go from here?
On Nov. 9, I was joined by state Sen. Kate Lieber, nurses, firefighters and long-term care workers to learn about the challenges and strains on our health care system.
On Dec. 1, we'll hear from state Sen. Kayse Jama and workers about how to best support those who have been disproportionately impacted by these incredibly tough months. We must ensure economic justice, wage protections and job security.
On Dec. 13, the chair of the Senate Committee on Education —state Sen. Michael Dembrow —as well as teachers and school employees will share how we can support their work and ensure our students thrive.
I hope you join me in continuing to follow best practices to protect our public health. I look forward to my COVID-19 booster shot and will wear my mask wherever and whenever prudent.
More to come on the communities and industries we'll be hearing from. Please visit my website, www.OregonLegislature.Gov/Wagner for details on how to participate.
We must make certain all communities share in Oregon's recovery and have an equitable shot at getting ahead. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rob Wagner, a Lake Oswego resident, is the Oregon Senate majority leader representing District 19.
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