Washington State 14th District Representative Gina Mosbrucker says the state’s employment security department has been swamped with claims, so patience may be necessary to apply. Mosbrucker says people can apply for unemployment insurance online, but Washington ESD has seen an over 1,000 percent increase in calls, and people are getting high volume messages on the phone and at times getting kicked off the system. Mosbrucker says the department is trying to add staff to deal with the volume, and those who are calling need to be persistent. Mosbrucker said her office is receiving numerous calls from people needing help navigating the system to get unemployment benefits, adding they are trying to help as many as they can. There are also links to resources available at houserepublicans.wa.gov.
Skamania County says it will not be extending the April 30 deadline for paying taxes. But beginning April 15 the Skamania County Treasurer’s office will be accepting applications to assist eligible taxpayers with emergency income issues. County officials say they do recognize the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic has caused and will take those cases into consideration. To apply, call the Skamania County Treasurer’s office at 509-427-3760 to apply.
The Oregon School Activities Association Executive Board decided during an online meeting on Wednesday to continue its current suspension of spring activities but chose not to cancel any state championships at this time. OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said in a memo to member schools that the board has been aligning its decisions with Governor Kate Brown’s school closure orders and plans to continue on that path. Weber went on to say if the Governor orders in-person student learning shutdown for the remainder of this school year, the OSAA would also cancel its spring activities and state championships. He added board members discussed the potential of shifting spring activities and state championships into the summer and are not supportive of that concept at this time. The OSAA Executive Board has an online meeting scheduled for April 15 to review the situation.
North Wasco County School District 21 has added a grab and go location and is starting bus delivery options today for its free meals for anyone 18 and under. Dry Hollow Elementary is now a pick up location along with The Dalles Middle School and Chenowith Elementary every weekday from 11 a.m. to noon. In addition, the district is adding four bus delivery options. Route 1 will be at the corner of Chenowith Road and Foley Lakes from 11 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. and the corner of Chenowith and Oak from 11:30 to noon. Route 2 will be at Verdant and 8th Street from 11 a.m. to 11:25 and Walnut and 8th from 11:30 to noon. Route 3 will act as a Colonel Wright Elementary drop-off site from 11 a.m. to noon. And Route 4 will be at 10th Street and Thompson Road from 11 a.m. to 11:25, then on 17th and Thompson from 11:30 to noon.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 84 new cases of COVID-19 in the state on Tuesday, including three in the Mid-Columbia area. Hood River County reported one new case, moving the total in the County to three, while Wasco County reported two more to move its total to seven. The state has so far reported 690 COVID-19 cases, while there have been 13,126 negative tests. Hood River County has had 133 negative tests for COVID-19, Wasco County 107, Gilliam County 4, and Sherman County three. The deaths that were reported today were a 90-year-old man in Yamhill County and an 88-year-old woman in Benton County, both with underlying medical conditions. Of the 690 COVID-19 cases in Oregon, 154 have required hospitalization, with 40 patients placed on a ventilator. The state reports it has 749 ventilators available. In Washington there have been delays in updating COVID-19 data, with the state health department indicating tracking of negative results is overwhelming the tool it uses for doing so. So far in Washington there have been 4,896 reported cases of COVID-19, with seven in Klickitat County and one in Skamania County. There have been 195 fatalities, with one in Klickitat County.
Oregon’s Emergency Management Director says they expected to receive a new shipment of Personal Protective Equipment from the federal government sometime today. Andrew Phelps said during a news conference that once it is processed at OEM’s warehouse in Wilsonville, it will be pushed out to counties and tribes and numbers on what was actually received will be released. Phelps said no matter how much PPE the state receives in this shipment, he knows they will need more. He added continued social distancing efforts to help flatten the curve of virus transmission helps extend their supply. Phelps noted the state has received private donations of 200-thousand gloves, 100-thousand surgical masks, and five-thousand N-95 masks.
Local business leaders are quickly gathering information on how the economic stimulus package passed by Congress is going to work, but they’re still waiting on the details. The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Farquharson says she was part of three different webinars on the subject on Monday, and said the Small Business Administration is working with banks to get ready for the rollout so business owners don’t have to go to a different lender. She adds under the bill passed in Congress the SBA has to have a guide written by April 11. Farquharson says the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District’s webpage has a compilation of links to resources for both business and individual recovery, the address is mcedd.org.
The Dalles Meals on Wheels is continuing to deliver meals to seniors during the COVID-19 crisis, but they could use some financial help from the community. Social distancing measures forced cancellation of the organization’s weekly benefit bingo game. Gary Patton of Meals on Wheels says that provided a large part of their funding, but they are carrying on during this time of great need. Donations can be made by mail to The Dalles Meals on Wheels at P.O. Box 689 in The Dalles, zip code 97058. Patton says they are currently providing daily meals for 140 seniors in The Dalles area. Seniors who are in need of the service can call The Dalles Meals on Wheels at 541-298-8333. Meals-to-go are also provided at noon each weekday for pickup at Mid-Columbia Senior Center, call 541-298-8333 in advance to order a meal.
The Oregon Health Authority says it has received flexibility from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to remove barriers for Oregonians to qualify for, enroll in, and stay enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan. Oregon has also received flexibility for providers to provide care to members as the state responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the waiver, all members who are currently enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan will not lose coverage during this crisis. Individuals can sign up for OHP without having to verify their income with their application. They will be able to self-attest, which will help Oregonians get access to OHP coverage more quickly. Federal stimulus payments and increased unemployment payments will not affect OHP eligibility. They will not be counted during the application process or when members report a change in their household. Oregon will also have additional flexibility to add to its healthcare workforce, provide treatment in temporary sites, and for paying providers during this public health emergency.
SAIF, Oregon’s workers compensation insurance company, says a new resource will help eligible businesses pay for expenses tied to making their workplaces safer against the coronavirus and responding to the impact the pandemic has had on workers. SAIF’s $10 million coronavirus worker safety fund is designed to support employee safety, reduce injuries, and decrease exposures by helping businesses impacted by the coronavirus. More than 53,000 SAIF policyholders across the state are eligible for funds. Eligible expenses could include worksite cleaning and disinfection supplies; resources to reopen businesses safely after a coronavirus-related closure; resources to redesign or modify workspaces to encourage social distancing; and mental health and wellness initiatives. Expenses incurred on or after March 1 will be considered. The application, along with additional details about the fund, can be found at saif.com/safetyfund. SAIF will accept submissions until all funds have been expended or until the fund is no longer needed.