Merkley, Wyden, Blumenauer, Bonamici Join Oregonians in Calling for Long-Overdue Senate Action on Coronavirus Relief
PORTLAND, OR – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, today joined more than 80 Oregonians in a virtual event calling for the Senate to finally act on a fourth coronavirus relief package.
The coronavirus has killed over 163,000 Americans and cost more than 40 million their jobs, but despite the fact that the House passed an additional relief package nearly three months ago, the Senate’s leadership has refused to vote since March on any substantial relief effort for Americans who are suffering. On Tuesday, Oregonians from all across the state came together with a clear message: Stop playing politics with people’s health and well-being, and do the job you were elected to do.
Members of the Oregon delegation were joined by Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribes; Kali Thorne Ladd, executive director of KairosPDX; Susannah Morgan, CEO of the Oregon Food Bank; Reyna Lopez, executive director of PCUN; DeVon Pouncey, vendor program director for Street Roots; and Sally Russell, mayor of Bend.
“We are months into this pandemic, and families and workers are still struggling with record unemployment levels and threats to their health and well-being,” Bonamici said. “It didn’t have to be this way. The House took decisive action in May to provide desperately needed assistance. Senator McConnell must finally put the American people first and bring the Senate back into session to pass the legislation our communities need.”
“Last week, the White House and Senate Republicans decided to cut Oregon families’ unemployment insurance in the middle of the worst job market of our lifetimes,” Merkley said. “In the coming weeks, schools will be trying to cobble together distance learning without enough technology, or in-person learning without enough protective equipment and cleaning supplies. Nurses, grocery workers, farmworkers, and other essential workers keep getting sick without protections in place. Without a national plan, we’re not doing enough testing, so the virus keeps spiraling. Our postal service is being crippled in an effort to suppress people’s right to vote by mail. All of these needs and more were addressed by the House three months ago, but the Senate and White House refuse to act. The American people can’t afford to wait any longer.”
“With about one in nine Oregonians out of work through no fault of their own and the entire country battling a pandemic, the response from Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republican-controlled Senate has been consistent in its cruelty,” Wyden said. “The response has been to delay, deflect and distract and now skip town instead of putting in the sweat equity needed to help jobless Oregonians counting on the extension of supercharged unemployment benefits. And the answer has been just as callous for Oregon students, teachers and staff working hard to find solutions to education challenges during a pandemic as well as all essential workers trying to do their jobs safely. The time is long past for Trump, McConnell and Republicans to stop stonewalling and negotiate a deal with Democrats that meets the needs of families throughout Oregon.”
“Trump’s executive actions are like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound and will do nothing to keep Americans in their homes,” Blumenauer said. “Rather than reinstating the federal evictions moratorium or providing money to renters and homeowners, this half-baked proposal simply asks agencies to explore housing relief options while providing no concrete actions to prevent a full-blown housing crisis. Let’s be clear: The time to explore options is over. It’s time for Republicans to join us in taking real action to keep people safe and housed as we weather this crisis.”
“The Klamath Tribes has 5,400 members. There are nine other federally recognized tribes in Oregon, and over 500 tribes across the nation. As it’s well known, our people, even before the pandemic, have suffered many problems due to failed policies and actions against us. Now, the Senate has an opportunity to move forward and do something to continue the vital support of the CARES Act,” said Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribes. “The assistance we’re receiving now is just enough to help people keep their heads above water—barely. It’s critical that the Senate move forward and develop a robust program that best serves all of the tribes across the nation.”
“Our business community has explained loudly and clearly that small business assistance is critical to their survival,” said Bend Mayor Sally Russell. “We need more childcare assistance. We’ve lost 40 percent of our local childcare slots, which makes it hard for people to work. We also need more unemployment assistance. The Oregon Employment Department does not have the ability to serve those who have lost their jobs. We need direct federal stimulus dollars to laid off workers so people can pay their bills.”
“Any stimulus package that fails to invest in education renders invisible the dreams and future of our children,” said Kali Thorne Ladd, executive director of Kairos PDX.
“Communities throughout Oregon and across the country face a hundred-year flood of hunger and poverty in the wake of this pandemic,” said Susannah Morgan, Oregon Food Bank CEO. “When people’s lives are on the line, we can’t afford inaction. When families are struggling to put food on the table, gridlock is not an option. Our communities need bold action from congressional leaders to stem this tide — and we need it now.”
“A fourth coronavirus relief package is vital to rural and urban workers,” said Reyna Lopez, executive director of PCUN. “This is urgently needed support for people who are on the front lines of this pandemic. The fact that basic relief hasn't been passed is devastating our communities in Oregon, and across the nation. We need relief today.”
“We have gotten 200 people CARES Act stimulus checks, which means $240,000 dollars has been distributed through Street Roots. I can’t begin to tell you how much this has meant to many of these folks,” said DeVon Pouncey, vendor program director with Street Roots. “On the flip side, now they’re playing a guessing game on when the next relief will come. This pandemic has led us to so much uncertainty in regards to future stability for these folks and many others. We need to push for more assistance in these uncertain times, especially for our most vulnerable communities.”
More than 20 additional leaders and organizations also urged the Senate to take long-overdue action:
“Oregonians who cannot yet safely return to work or whose jobs have been permanently lost due to coronavirus are desperately waiting on President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to negotiate with the House so that they can get much-needed financial relief,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04). “Since the House passed the Heroes Act in May, we’ve seen COVID-19 infections surge across the country, daily death tolls surpass 1,000 for the first time since May, and businesses that had reopened only to have to close their doors once more. The Trump administration and Senate Republicans have had more than two months to put forward a comprehensive relief proposal--not stunts like payroll tax deferral that do nothing for the unemployed and cut Social Security and Medicare. Their complete abdication of leadership is putting American lives and livelihoods, as well as the well-being of our entire economy, at risk.”
“Working Oregonians are the heroes in this pandemic. Essential workers are keeping our communities and economy afloat during this difficult time, and I am proud of Oregon’s unions for being on the frontlines fighting for protections and economic security for all. Since the House passed the HEROES Act, the virus has continued to spread, additional unemployment benefits have expired, and state and local budgets have been decimated. We are doing our jobs, it’s time for Congress to do theirs,” said Graham Trainor, President of the Oregon AFL-CIO.
“Without federal aid, we’ll see dangerous cuts to essential public services like health care, education and emergency services. They called us heroes; it’s time to recognize the importance of our work and fund state and local services,” said Shiela Boyd, Local 1246 Direct Support Crisis Specialist, Stabilization and Crisis Unit, James Street House, Yamhill County.
“During times of economic crisis, services such as housing support, mental health and medical services, job seeker employment services and transit to access are lifelines that are needed more than ever. Local government and transit providers cannot meet the need alone; we need federal support to provide these critical services which if not met, stand in the way of economic recovery for our communities,” said Tammy Baney, Executive Director of Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.
“This pandemic has devastated communities and economies. CARES funding is slated to end in December. After that, the cost to fight this disease and save lives is on the shoulders of local governments. We’re not looking for a bailout. We’re looking for a lifeline,” said Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard.
“The call for further federal action has gone unanswered for too long and it's putting lives at risk. Senate Republicans need to put people over politics. Individuals need direct support, and state and local governments need funds to keep people safe and healthy. We need action now,” said Oregon Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego).
“During this pandemic, the postal service has been the most trusted and relied upon service in the entire country. We, the letter carriers, have been in every community, every day delivering: medicine, checks, notes from loved ones, democracy, and a safe, private, secure connection with the rest of the world. Billions of dollars have been given to private companies in the USA to help them during this pandemic crisis, but nothing has been given to help keep the postal service going when it is now needed more than ever. The postal service is critical infrastructure for the USA so much so that it is written into the constitution. Sufficient financial assistance must be provided to the USPS immediately to ensure the safe, secure and timely service this country is relying upon and has relied upon since its founding,” said Willie Groshell, President of NALC Oregon State Association, representing postal workers.
“The COVID-19 crisis has imposed significant and devastating impacts on lives and livelihoods. From our students to employees, everyone has been affected in their own individual ways, and we face significant challenges together as the OSU community. We know during times of crisis, OSU’s land grant mission for education, research, and service is as important as ever, but we face significant financial impacts across our mission areas that threaten our capacity. Federal support now is critical to help us meet the needs of our community while managing the complex financial and operational impacts from COVID-19. We thank the Oregon federal delegation for continuing to fight in Congress for further relief,” said Dr. King Alexander, president at Oregon State University.
“With 4,700 students requesting more than $10 million in higher education emergency relief funds just to date, University of Oregon students clearly need more help to stay in school,” said Jim Brooks, director of student financial aid at the University of Oregon.
“I am concerned about the government’s slow response to COVID, high employment, and the economy. As a nonprofit leader in my community, I see how families are struggling. Early in the pandemic, CARES Act funding allowed my organization to continue services for youth experiencing homelessness, but immediate additional relief is necessary. It is apparent this public health crisis is leading to a deep economic crisis. The financial strain on families increases the risk of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual exploitation which will impact us for generations. We are in this for the long haul but we need further federal relief for these families and for organizations like ours,” said Ann Craig, Executive Director, Jackson Street Youth Services.
“Our members cannot afford for politicians to fail to support coronavirus relief at a time when over 300 members of ILWU Local 5 are still laid off from their service industry jobs due to no fault of their own. Our members are struggling NOW to figure out how they are going to stay home and teach their children, how they are going to pay their rent and feed their families. Our members WANT to work; the jobs aren’t there. Support them at this time when 1 in 5 workers who had a job before the pandemic are now unemployed,” said Myka Dubay, ILWU Local 5 Union Representative.
“Housing is a matter of utmost importance in safeguarding people from the ills of the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial and physical resources are particular needed for the lower income African American population, who have been negatively by the disease and the economic disaster its placed on this particular group of people,” said Kymberly Horner, Executive Director of Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative.
“Educational funding is needed to continue the mission of creating our future workforce and the leaders of tomorrow. We can ill afford to abandon them,” said Jaime Rodriguez, President of AFT-Oregon.
“Our parks and trails are experiencing unprecedented use during the pandemic, and we must invest in the staff and resources to maintain these spaces for the well-being of the public through these challenging times,” said Steph Noll, Coalition Director for Oregon Trails Coalition.
“We were among the first to lose 100% of our employment, and will be among the last to return to the jobs we are trained to do. We are facing the highest unemployment rate in our 125 year history in Oregon. We will be facing the highest rate of student loan defaults, evictions, suicide, domestic violence, starvation as well as loss of skilled creative professionals of our industry. Please resume the $600 survival money. Please extend unemployment and moratorium on evictions, protect our communication through our U.S. Postal service, cancel student loan debt so we can pay our rent and taxes,” said Rose Etta Venetucci, Business Representative for IATSE Local 28, representing represent Stage and Wardrobe employees.
“It’s critical that the Senate pass strong support for people to have enough to eat. We can’t wait. Relief that has worked so far—free grab and go school meals, Pandemic EBT and extra SNAP to buy groceries—can’t be allowed to run out this month. Not while 1 in 3 families with kids in Oregon face hunger and Black and Latinx adults are more than twice as likely as white adults to report that their household doesn’t have enough to eat,” said Annie Kirschner, Executive Director of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.
“Thousands of Teamster members work on the frontlines of the covid-19 pandemic. Our members work in EMS, Law Enforcement, Food Warehousing and Delivery, Solid Waste and Laundry Services and home Package Delivery are among the many services provided by Teamster members. Our members need PPE, access to reliable expedited testing, clear OSHA guidelines and a presumption that infection is work related. The HEROS ACT needs to address the safety and health of all workers, especially those on the front lines,” said Mark MacPherson with Joint Council of Teamsters No. 37.
“Survivors of domestic violence are facing dire circumstances right now as COVID-19 has added additional challenges to already life-threatening situations. Federal relief will provide critical respite both to individual survivors and their families, and to organizations like ours that are here for people seeking safety and rebuilding their lives after abuse,” said Emmy Ritter, Executive Director, Raphael House of Portland.
“Unfortunately, this pandemic and its far-reaching public health and economic effects are far from over. Through no fault of their own, too many families are in need of financial and health care resources that only Congress and the administration can provide. Too many workers across the nation are at risk of contracting COVID-19 because of a lack of basic workplace safeguards. Federal employees are especially at risk, since they have been working on the front lines every day for months providing vital public services without needed protections. The time is now for Congress to pass a COVID-19 legislative package that includes emergency supplemental funding for USCIS and the worker protections provided in the House-passed HEROES Act,” said Grant Schott, with American Federation of Government Employees.
“As Congress negotiates, we urge them to ensure that local governments of all sizes have access to additional direct, flexible funding to fight this pandemic, rebuild the economy and strengthen our communities in an equitable and responsible manner. We urge members of the House and Senate to oppose any agreement that does not invest in local governments,” said Kathryn Harrington, Chair of Washington County Commission.
“Nobody wants to get students back to the classroom more than our educators, but in order to reopen our schools safely we need a real federal investment in public education and public health. Coronavirus relief is essential in order for states like Oregon to provide the services and supports that the community is depending on now more than ever. The Senate must provide our state with the resources it needs to respond to this pandemic, and pass another COVID relief package today,” said Portland Association of Teachers President Elizabeth Thiel.
“There are people within the NW Oregon Labor Council who have yet to receive an unemployment check. Senator McConnell needs to stop playing politics while people are suffering from this crisis. Bottom line, pass the HEROES Act!” said Bob Tackett, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, NW Oregon Labor Council.
“Community colleges are the nation’s economic first-responders, positioned to help people impacted by job loss due to COVID-19 get back to work. But without an additional relief package that includes funding for MHCC programs and student aid, economic disparities in East County will widen. This is an equity issue, and we must find a way for people to have access to affordable education,” said Lisa Skari, EdD, President of Mt. Hood Community College.
“The HEROES Act provides much-needed funding for the United States Postal Service. At a time when standing in line to cast a ballot could have serious health consequences, vote-by-mail needs to be protected and expanded, not attacked and undermined. The Senate must act now and pass comprehensive coronavirus relief. That relief must include the necessary funding to protect and preserve the Postal Service,” said Daniel Cortez, Director of Legislative/Political Relations, Oregon Postal Workers Union AFL-CIO.