From Rachel Prusak <[email protected]>
Subject Special Session, Vaccines, Unemployment, Chambers of Commerce, and more
Date December 16, 2020 6:14 PM
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Friends and Neighbors,

The holidays are upon us as we enter the third week of December. Tonight is also the seventh night of Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah is about light in the dark: lighting candles without knowing if there would be enough oil. It is a story of acting on hope in hard times, a relevant message for this year.

Normally, Hanukkah would be a time to gather with family and friends to celebrate that story. Of course, this year’s Hanukkah is happening in a dark, difficult year, and like so many other holidays this year, it looks different. So let’s light the candles this year to remind ourselves that out of difficult times, a festival of lights can emerge. Chag urim sameach - a joyous Hanukkah to all who celebrate.

This weekend I attended the Historic Willamette Holiday and supported many small businesses to buy holiday gifts. My favorite purchase was for myself, though: I bought the most beautiful wreath from Sister Wreaths. It has clips of magnolia and eucalyptus, and it's the largest wreath I have ever bought. Since 2020 is not a normal year, I didn’t hang the wreath in the normal spot on the front door, but instead hung it in my home office, so all my zoom meetings and telehealth visits could enjoy it as well. There is one more chance to attend the Historic Willamette Outdoor Holiday Bazaar ([link removed]) and get your locally made products like soap, candles, jewelry, alpaca socks and gloves, and of course a beautiful wreath.

With a few more days left of Hanukkah, and Christmas and Kwanzaa fast approaching, I wish you and your loved ones safety, wellness, and hope this season. Rather than canceling all your holiday celebrations, plan your festivities and maintain your traditions with those in your household and include others virtually, including:

* Lighting candles over video together with family and friends near and far.
* Singing holiday songs on a virtual singalong.
* Watching holiday-themed movies as a family.
* Crafting or baking and dropping off what you’ve created without contact.
* Playing a game over the internet.
* Viewing holiday decorations around the neighborhood with people you live with, either by foot or car.

Special Session

Without Congressional action, Oregon and the rest of the U.S. face a financial cliff at the end of the year. Our small businesses are relying on Congress to provide grants and loans so they don’t lose their livelihoods and we don’t lose the backbone of our economy. Additionally, the public health infrastructure to adequately test and trace COVID cases relies on federal funding; presenting a serious healthcare concern.

As state officials, we desperately need to act too. As we enter the winter, COVID-19 is spiking statewide, and its impacts on our healthcare systems, economies, schools, and families are a true catastrophe. We need relief. I’m grateful that Governor Brown listened to lawmakers and called a third special session on 12/21 to address some of our most urgent needs including:
* Restaurant support,
* Evictions moratorium and landlord assistance fund, and
* School liability protection.

In addition, a total of $600 million will be moved to the Emergency Fund with dedicated money to wildfire response and recovery and COVID response. Read more here: State of Oregon Newsroom : NewsDetail ([link removed])

Oregonians who are staying home, closing their businesses, and making difficult sacrifices to protect their communities are at risk of losing their homes if we do not extend protections and provide assistance. Families who invested their retirement in property are at risk of losing their life savings if we do not provide relief for struggling landlords. The potential suffering is incalculable.

As elected officials, we are entrusted to solve problems, come together, and help our communities in our worst times. We are in our worst times now, and we have to live up to our responsibility. This article ([link removed]) highlights how evictions are tied to an increase in coronavirus cases and deaths. We must prevent the spread of COVID from evictions.

Vaccination Gives Us Some Hope

As of yesterday, Oregon Health Authority reported 1,129 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 96,092. COVID-19 has claimed 54 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,214. Vaccination gives us hope that the beginning of the end of the pandemic is here, but we must still stay safe and save lives.

But hope is here, and vaccines are on the way. With recommendations from the FDA, CDC, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, Oregonians can rest assured that many qualified doctors and scientists have affirmed the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective. Read the Press Release from our Governor here. ([link removed])

Oregon expects to receive 147,000 vaccinations from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of December and plans to distribute 100,000 first doses of the vaccine to essential workers during that time frame. The Oregon Health Authority’s page on COVID-19 vaccinations can be found here ([link removed]) : COVID-19 Vaccines ([link removed])

First doses have been delivered in Oregon, with more to come. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Oregon to choose the initial sites as a way to test the vaccine ordering system that providers around the state will use. Legacy Health is the first registered COVID-19 vaccine provider in the state to receive the vaccine, made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. The health system’s Holladay Park site in Portland and Meridian Park site in Tualatin each received one package of 975 doses yesterday.

Additional doses are expected at three other locations in Oregon on Tuesday: Oregon Health & Science University Pharmacy, Kaiser Permanente’s Airport Way Center in Portland and St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario also are each expected to receive 975-dose packages of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The remaining 30,225 Pfizer vaccine doses from this week’s allocation for Oregon will arrive at hospitals throughout the rest of the week, with 10,725 doses going to skilled nursing facilities for vaccinations that start next week.

The shipments took place after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision on Friday to issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was found in Phase 3 clinical trials to be 95% effective and, in most people, cause only mild to moderate, short-lived side effects.

Most Oregon hospitals and health systems that registered as vaccine provider sites are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks. Follow-up shipments are anticipated on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.

The vaccine manufactured by Moderna Inc., which is expected to be granted FDA emergency use authorization later in the week, is also scheduled for delivery in Oregon on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.

Public health officials anticipate there will be enough of the two vaccines to provide first doses to about 100,000 people, with second doses following in January.

Unemployment Updates

Below are some notable updates and timelines from the Oregon Employment Department on existing benefit programs:

Reducing Extended Benefits: Because of Oregon’s high unemployment rate, Oregon had been paying 20 weeks of High Extended Benefits (HEB), a benefit extending regular Unemployment Benefits when a state is at high unemployment. A federal determination was made, now that our unemployment rate has decreased, to reduce the extension to up to 13 weeks of benefits. This reduction in benefits takes effect December 13, 2020. Read more here ([link removed]) .

CARES Act Benefits End December 26: The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Employment Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) federal benefits program are ending soon. The last day to file a claim for PUA and PEUC benefits is the week ending December 26, 2020. Action by Congress and the president is required to provide more funds

If you qualify for EB, the department will automatically move you to that program for up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. EB is at the same benefit amount as regular UI benefits.

If you don’t qualify for EB or have already used your 13 weeks of benefits, these resources may help:
* If you need help paying for rent, groceries, child care, or other critical resources you may be eligible for benefits. For more information, call 2-1-1 or visit ([link removed]) .
* You may also qualify for free or low-cost health coverage through the Oregon Health Plan. Visit ([link removed]) or call 800-699-9075 for more. Even if you’ve been denied before, apply again.

Restarting Your Claim: Read the FAQ on how to restart a claim here ([link removed]) , and review the step-by-step instructions for restarting a claim using the Online Claim System here ([link removed]) .

Adjudication: If your claim is in adjudication, the department may reach out to you for more information by phone, email, or mailed letter.

You may receive a call from 1-855-914-4676 or a number not identified as the Employment Department. If the adjudicator handling your claim cannot reach you, they will leave a message with their direct phone number so you can return their call.

You will need to call the adjudicator back within 2 business days, so it is important that you turn off call blocking, answer all calls, have your voicemail set up with room for messages, and check your messages often.

Lost Wages Assistance (LWA): Have you certified for LWA yet? Even if you’ve already received LWA payments, you must self-certify. As long as you received unemployment benefits for a COVID-related reason anytime between July 26 and September 5, 2020, you’re eligible for LWA.
* FEMA requires everyone receiving LWA to certify their eligibility. You only have to certify ONCE, and ONLY if you received regular UI benefits, PEUC, or EB. Here are the instructions ([link removed]) for certifying using the Online Claim System ([link removed]〈=E) .
* If you received LWA funds but don’t certify, you’ll have to pay back those funds to the Oregon Employment Department. (As with all benefit programs, federal law requires the state to recover benefits paid to people who don’t meet legal eligibility requirements.) Here are instructions ([link removed]) for paying back LWA.
* If you’ve already certified for LWA, you don’t need to do anything else. The department is working on issuing payments as soon as they can.

Updates from West Linn Chamber of Commerce

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the West Linn Chamber’s Lunch and Learn event, where it was announced that Clackamas County has set up a Business Recovery Center ([link removed]) similar to Washington County’s. The BRCs provide a one-stop shop to recovery assistance and resources for businesses of all sizes and types. Services are offered in multiple languages and, depending on client needs, may include:
* Individualized answers to business questions
* Assistance with connecting to financial resources
* Help with navigating technical resources
* Educational resources
* Referrals to organizations and resources

Access to interpreters and translation service.

West Linn Small Business Spotlight

At the West Linn Chamber meeting, we heard from Nathaniel McLaughlin, The Tutoring Center Director, Greg Long, Willamette Valley Bank Loan Officer and LegalShield Independent Associate, Bonni Canary about LegalShield.
* The Tutoring Center: The Center Director, Nathaniel McLaughlin reported that tutors are still working 1:1 with students. He hopes all students can access the educational support needed during the challenges of distance learning. To find out more here: West Linn Tutoring Center ([link removed])
* Willamette Valley Bank: Greg Long reported there is still time to get a tax credit for new homeowner loans. Any Oregon resident who hasn’t purchased a single-family home either individually or jointly in the three years prior to the date of their planned purchase qualifies. An individual can deduct up to $5,000 ($10,000 for joint filers) from your Oregon taxable income. You have until the end of the year. For more information Contact Local Broker Greg Long at (970) 846-3344 or by email: [email protected]. You can also check out his website here Greg Long ([link removed])
* LegalShield: Bonni Canary discussed LegalShield & IDShield Services. They offer affordable proactive services, which are important to have in place, especially before a hospitalization. You can get your wills done, along with a review and consultation with an Oregon estate planning attorney, including your Healthcare Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney. LegalShield also provides the entire family with identity protection services. For additional information email local resident, Bonni Canary, [email protected].

Updates from Tualatin Chamber of Commerce

Last week, I also had the opportunity to connect with the director of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce ([link removed]) , Linda Moholt. She shared the story about an amazing program in Washington County called “Every Plate.”

Linda and The Business Recovery Center ([link removed]) connected small, locally owned restaurants impacted by COVID with non-profit agencies focused on serving individuals and families experiencing houselessness. The struggling restaurants were paid with funds from the CARES Act, saving the non-profits thousands of dollars, and helping them feed our most vulnerable Oregonians. Linda described this as a WIN-WIN scenario and I agree!

Safe Storage Will Save Lives & Protect Gun Owners

Eight years ago a family in the district had their lives forever changed by a stolen gun, a gun that had been left out and unlocked. Steve Forsyth was killed that day. His father, wife and children still call this community home and it is in their honor, I will work for a safe storage bill in 2021 to save lives and protect gun owners.

Read more about the story here ([link removed][0]=AT1nMfQ3YczDqn78poeZSGQnbg28i6oFjlX99yKHzrENmzYMG22ewI4_PbC5VXLX8G79xuvHFqvm_qLk_KseabEpQ41x2VAom4NaJFG9Bwno4jwfiV1Ai-nJVlKm7Yi2GRdR0cJd__U5yHvwjTn4mrRD27Wnv6salhBSJaQRfXK0fTMe11LmA7Gg_iqiQ4lczaauLl_iAULalgFgTAt61K3CcQ) .

I also want to give a shout out to the local Moms Demand Action group for a wonderful meeting this week. Together we will work to build healthy communities and prevent gun violence

Happy Surprises

And for fun… Tik Tok has been one of the happy surprises I’ve found during this pandemic. It brings me more joy than I could have ever imagined. This gentleman and the duets from his original video have put a smile on my face the last few nights so I did one too. “I heard you were struggling. Sometimes I struggle too. Every time you’re feeling low just remember there is hope. Happiness looks good on you.”

[link removed]

Please email me (mailto:[email protected]) if you have specific concerns. Our office will do all we can to help and protect all Oregonians.

Covid-19 Resources:
Oregon Information and Resources ([link removed])
Oregon Health Authority Updates ([link removed])
Federal Government Response ([link removed])
Senator Merkley’s Response Page ([link removed])
SEIU Worker Resource Page ([link removed])
Oregon Unemployment ([link removed])

Thank you for reading and stay safe.

Rachel Prusak

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