By State Representative Rob Nosse
Rather than discuss the recent legislative special session this month, I thought I would focus on work in the Legislature that, until recently, has not been as high profile.
One of my assignments is serving on the Oregon Emergency Board – a legislative committee whose main function is to allocate money from emergency funds to state agencies where specific needs arise when the Legislature is not in session.
We do this from a finite pool of money set aside as part of the state’s biennial budget. In July, I had the chance to work on two things that I am particularly proud of.
In a typical year, the Emergency Board is a relatively uneventful assignment. We might pass a few spending measures to respond to a worse-than-usual wildfire season or boost funding to the Department of Human Services because of an upturn in the use of medical benefits on the Oregon Health Plan.
This year, serving on the Emergency Board has been very different. In fact, everything has been different this year. Because of the way Federal CARES Act dollars have been allocated to our state to tackle the pandemic, the Emergency Board has been very active.
We passed funding packages to provide child care for frontline workers, PPE and technical assistance for underrepresented and small businesses, housing stabilization grants in the form of rental assistance, economic relief for quarantined workers, enhanced mental health services and to address many other needs.
One important measure we passed was the allocation of $62 million for the Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency. Data shows that Black communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with Oregon being no exception.
The fund will provide grants to Black individuals, families and businesses in Oregon to be made available through an application and award process led by the Contingent and the Black United Fund.
I was proud to vote yes and be a part of the Emergency Board’s decision to allocate funds from the CARES Act to programs that will directly assist Black Oregonians.
Another funding package at the July Emergency Board meeting was a $9.7 million allocation for music and performing arts venues allowing them to “moth ball” safely until the pandemic has passed. This was part of a $50 million package for arts and culture entities across our state.
Most of you know Governor Brown has prohibited public gatherings of small and large groups of people, effectively cancelling all public performances conducted by arts and entertainment organizations. The sites for these public gatherings closed down and have remained closed.
These include beloved venues right here in SE Portland like Artichoke Music, Milagro Theater, the Aladdin Theater, Revolution Hall and the Doug Fir, to name just a few.
They were some of the first businesses to shutter and will most likely be the last to reopen. If these organizations do not make it through the pandemic, the cultural and economic impact on our state will be massive.
Behind the scenes, I worked very hard to help venues across the state weather the pandemic and be there for us to enjoy when this is finally all over. I did this knowing how many of those are found here in SE Portland.
We are likely to be called back for a second special legislative session in mid-August to address budget challenges in light of declining personal and corporate income tax revenues as well as declining lottery funds as the state budgets on a two-year cycle and is required to keep a balanced budget.
If you have thoughts about what we should prioritize please reach out to me at rep.robnosse@oregonLegislature.gov or call me at 503.986.1442.
Our goal is to balance the budget, and do it in away that still maintains essential services, safety net programs and school funding, including community colleges and universities.