Just days before state legislators are scheduled to meet to discuss how to spend up to $800 million in coronavirus relief funding, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on Thursday issued a call to arms in support of local businesses hit hard by COVID-19.
The board asked local and state officials, as well as local chambers of commerce, city councils and business leaders to rally behind a business reopening plan recently submitted to Gov. Kate Brown and state lawmakers by the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.
“As fellow citizens and business owners, we share in the frustration that our local businesses, families and residents are dealing with,” Douglas County Commissioner Tom Kress said in a news release. “The last nine months have been challenging to say the least, and now more than ever before our local businesses need your support, and a united front backing them with a solid, productive plan that will provide relief and a future for their livelihoods. Please consider joining us in supporting the plan presented by the OSCC.”
The Oregon State Chamber of Commerce issued its “Business Reopen Plan” two weeks ago.
“The Oregon State Chamber of Commerce is stating as clearly and plainly as possible: Local businesses need to be made whole, and they need to be able to re-open for business now,” the plan states.
The plan, the state chamber said, is based on the fact that businesses have acted responsibly to the community and to the COVID-19 guidance coming from the state; local businesses deserve the same consideration as large corporations; the remedies being offered by the state to small business are “completely inadequate;” and shutdowns are sending workers into “a failed state unemployment system” that has been unable to deliver timely benefits.
“OSCC is calling on Governor Brown and lawmakers to give local businesses and their employees the same consideration given to others during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the group said. “Local businesses and their employees have shouldered the largest costs imposed by state government and now is the time to help them recover.”
To do that, the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce and its members are calling for the following:
- The immediate reopening of all Oregon businesses.
- Substantial remedies to local businesses that have been forced to shut down through no fault of their own, since the state “has deprived these businesses and employees of their livelihoods.”
- A $75 million “Hospitality Relief Fund” dedicated to helping Oregon’s restaurants and hospitality businesses recover.
- A moratorium on new or increased taxes and fees at the state and local level.
- A short-term tax credit for property owners willing to waive debt for commercial tenants that are behind on rent.
Brown will convene a special session of the Oregon Legislature on Monday to address pressing needs surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For the one-day session, Brown has asked legislators to consider $800 million in relief for those suffering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic and the spate of wildfires this year.
The state Chamber of Commerce’s proposed business reopen plan also comes at a time when the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continue to climb in Douglas County and Oregon.
Douglas County had 1,244 cases of coronavirus as of Thursday, and 36 deaths, compared to 678 cases and 12 deaths a month ago. That represents an 83% increase in cases and a 200% increase in deaths in the last 30 days.
Additionally, the county had more than 700 people either in isolation or quarantine on Wednesday.
Statewide, Oregon on Tuesday announced a record high of 54 coronavirus deaths. That was followed by 48 deaths on Wednesday and another 21 on Thursday, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,283 people.
The state is also racing toward the 100,000 mark in confirmed and presumptive cases, with 98,936 as of Thursday. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across Oregon stood at 551 on Thursday; 113 of them are in intensive care unit beds.