The strange new reality we live in
This strange spring, now summer, continues. Nothing is as what we're familiar with. From the beginning of the pandemic back in March, our office has been flooded with emails and calls for help with unemployment. That, by far, is still the most common issue we've had to deal with.
I am so greatly disappointed with the Oregon Employment Department. I understand that no one knew there would be hundreds of thousands of unemployed all at one time. Still, the system is broken, and it does not appear that it's being fixed anytime soon. Our office has received hundreds of emails that have become more desperate in tone as the weeks go by. It's been both heartbreaking and frustrating that I can't seem to be able to help in the way that I would like to.
Still, there is some good news. Occasionally we hear from someone who we've worked with that "today I received my checks," and I can tell you that my legislative director, Abby, and I feel very good when that happens.
Yesterday, July 14, the Emergency Board authorized $35 million to get $500 one-time checks to the approximately 70,000 who've applied but not received any benefits yet. I am told it will be done as quickly as possible, but not to look forward to those checks for four to six weeks.
The second thing I wanted to write to you about was how strange it was to hold a special session in this new world we live in.
We were in the Capitol for three days, but it was not the normal session. The House passed rules to allow members to cast their vote on the bills via a "thumbs up or down" from any place in the House chamber. That meant the side aisles, back viewing area and on the actual floor — all were a part of the House chamber.
Many members stayed in their offices, watching the carrier of the bill give his or her speech, then when the time came to vote, they walked to the second floor of the House chamber or went to the third floor to the gallery or side aisle and gave the "thumbs up or down," and then went back to their offices.
The public was not allowed into the building nor were the members of the various lobby groups. That made for a very quiet building and a very weird way to conduct legislative business. Several bills were passed having to do with police reform and COVID-19 relief. I was not in support of all the bills, but for the most part, they were good bills that had broad bipartisan support.
Finally, there is the issue of schools and businesses. Will school start this fall and what will it look like? Each district is wrestling with the "how to" as I write this. I urge parents to reach out to their respective school boards and let them know what you think is best for your children.
As for businesses, I am very fearful of the potential for another shutdown that many businesses in our community will not be able to recover from. Please get out, safely, and support local businesses. If you aren't sure who, then check with your chamber of commerce. Both the Keizer chamber and the Chehalem Valley chamber can help you learn more about the stores, shops and restaurants in our communities.
Let's make the best of this situation, look out for one another and we'll get through this.
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