By State Representative Rob Nosse
Happy New Year to all my constituents!
This holiday season has been different in so many ways. Despite the pandemic, I hope everyone had some joyful moments. I for one, am really looking forward to the inauguration of a new President.
Many of you probably heard that, on December 21, I went to Salem for a one-day special session of the Oregon Legislature. The focus of the session was to provide emergency relief for those impacted by the pandemic, particularly those who are worried about eviction and paying their rent as well as helping those struggling to recover from the Oregon wildfires this year.
For renters and landlords, we passed HB 4401, which extends the eviction moratorium until June 30, 2021. The previous moratorium was set to expire on December 31. Without action by the legislature, thousands of Oregonians could have faced eviction on January 1.
For landlords struggling, HB 4401 also created a fund to provide financial assistance if they forgive the rent of their tenants who have been unable to pay their rent.
If a landlord needs access to this fund, they can get 80 percent of the rent they are owed from their tenants, if they forgive the remaining 20 percent.
I’m also very proud of a bill I worked on and championed that is now law: SB 1801, the Restaurant Relief Act. Oregon’s hospitality industry is struggling because of the need to maintain COVID-19 protocols.
Revenue losses have sometimes been between 40-70 percent due to closures, reduced indoor seating and many other hardships. As the weather has turned colder, outdoor seating is even more difficult to maintain.
The Restaurant Relief Act allows bars and restaurants to sell sealed alcoholic mixed drinks and single servings of wine “to-go” in the same way they already sell meals, beer, cider and bottles of wine.
As we all know, SE Portland has many bars and restaurants that are important to our community. Micah Anderson, General Manager of the Rum Club on 720 SE Sandy Blvd., and a bit of a bartender celebrity, stressed just how important this change is in an email he sent me a few days before the bill passed.
He said, “The independent restaurants and bars of Oregon have carried a large portion of the economic weight of the pandemic in their efforts to keep the citizens of Oregon safe. That weight is becoming unbearable for many of the employees and small business owners here in our state.
“We are pleading with you all to please give us some small avenue to recoup even a fraction of our lost revenue in a safe and responsible manner.”
Hopefully SB 1801 helps. I am glad I was able to get this done.
I am now looking towards the 2021 long session. The Democratic and Republican caucuses will choose their party leadership on January 11 and then we will convene January 19.
Democrats are hoping to enact legislation that helps us get through this pandemic, aids in Oregon’s recovery and strengthens our systems of public health should another pandemic occur.
I think most of us agree that COVID-19 has shown us, in ways that are undeniable, how much structural racism and economic favoritism are built into our society.
Poor people and BIPOC communities have been ravaged by the pandemic in ways that many of us have not. The legislature must apply the lessons we have learned this year to craft policies that will make Oregon a more equitable society for everyone.
We will also be addressing policies around education and learning as we know children and families in school under the current stay home orders have really struggled, as well as continuing the work started this summer around policing and criminal justice reform
In the February edition of this column, I will provide updates on what to expect as the session gets underway.