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Rogue Valley News, Thursday, 11/19 – Statewide Two-week ‘Freeze’ and Resources for Oregonians Impacted by Covid 19

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting and RogueValleyMagazine.com

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Rogue Valley Weather

Mostly Cloudy 41°F

Today- A 20 percent chance of showers before 10am. Snow level 3700 feet. Sunny, with a high near 52. Light and variable wind.

Friday- Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 50. Calm wind.

Saturday- Patchy freezing fog before 10am. Sunny, with a high near 54. Light southeast wind.

Sunday- Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.

Today’s Headlines

COVID-19 has claimed 10 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 788.  Oregon Health Authority reported 1,099 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 59,669.

The new cases  are in the following counties: Baker (9), Benton(13), Clackamas (82), Clatsop (4), Columbia (6), Coos (5), Crook (6), Curry (3), Deschutes (40), Douglas (33), Gilliam (2), Grant (6), Harney (3), Hood River (11), Jackson (108), Jefferson (15), Josephine (20), Lake (8), Lane (115), Lincoln (5), Linn (30), Malheur (33), Marion (84), Morrow (2), Multnomah (210), Polk (9), Tillamook (4), Umatilla (29), Union (3), Wasco (4), Washington (171), and Yamhill (26).

Gov. Kate Brown made her statewide two-week ‘freeze’ official Tuesday with an executive order that makes the measures enforceable by law.

The freeze will take effect starting Wednesday and aims to limit group activities and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon where cases have reached a record high. As part of the freeze, social gatherings cannot exceed more than six people. Restaurants are limited to take-out only, while gyms and fitness centers, museums, pools, sports courts, movie theaters, zoos, gardens, aquariums and venues will be closed. Grocery stores, pharmacies and retail stores are limited to a maximum capacity of 75%.

All of the freeze measures are enforceable by law. Workplace violations should be reported Oregon OSHA and restaurant violations to OSHA or OLCC. In the past social gathering limits were “self-enforced.” Now, if caught violating this restriction, a person can be cited, fined or arrested.

Governor Kate Brown and leading Oregon lawmakers responded to a remarkably stable revenue forecast for the state, while acknowledging that many Oregonians are suffering economically from the ongoing pandemic without any fresh infusions of aid.

Brown framed the news as another sign that a second federal stimulus package is needed in order to buoy both businesses and workers that are suffering from public health closures, saying that she has been lobbying Congress to put aside partisan bickering and pass another relief bill. Oregon’s Congressional delegation has been pushing FEMA to shoulder the full cost of clean-up from the wildfires. As things stand, the state of Oregon will be on the hook to pay for costs that FEMA does not cover, with the full response and clean-up estimated to cost more than $1 billion.

Responding to the revenue forecast news, Republicans in the legislature took shots at the “freeze” restrictions that went into effect on Wednesday, decrying the economic impact on Oregonian households.

Oregon provides mortgage support for homeowners in financial distress due to COVID-19.   $20 million available until funds run out.

SALEM, OR – The Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative (OHSI) has launched a mortgage relief program to help homeowners at risk of losing their homes due to COVID-related financial hardship.

The COVID-19 Mortgage Relief program provides assistance to homeowners who have experienced a financial hardship to help them avoid foreclosure. The program provides a one-time payment directly to mortgage servicers to bring delinquent first-lien mortgage accounts current.

OHSI is a program administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), on behalf of the Oregon Affordable Housing Assistance Corporation, and funded through U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) established during the Great Recession. OHCS, with the support of Senators Wyden and Merkley, successfully advocated to extend these funds to provide relief to Oregonians impacted by COVID-19.

“Oregon residents are facing multiple crises at once,” said Emese Perfecto, Director of OHCS Homeownership Division.  “We know that easing the burden of past due mortgage payments is a critical way we can keep families stable while they endure these challenges. This program provides hope to many struggling homeowners.”

As of September, 165,000 people were unemployed in Oregon, double the number of unemployed people one year ago. While the unemployment rate has improved slightly since the beginning of the pandemic, many Oregonians are still struggling. Since 2011, OHSI has helped more than 16,000 families keep their homes. The program has invested more than $300 million in direct assistance to Oregonians.

“Being at risk of losing your home can be extremely stressful. We want homeowners to know that they are not alone,” Perfecto said.  “Our trained partners are here to advise you and answer any questions you have.”

The program eligibility criteria include:

  • Became past due on mortgage payments after Jan. 1, 2020
  • Experienced a financial hardship such as job loss, reduced income, high medical costs, disability, death in the family, or divorce.
  • Mortgage payment is no more than 45 percent of household monthly income

More eligibility requirements and a FAQ, as well as the application portal, are available on the OHSI website. Housing counseling partners are also available to assist homeowners with the application process.

The $20 million program is funded through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. The assistance is offered through a no-interest, forgivable, five-year loan that requires no payment from the recipients so long as they don’t sell or refinance their home for cash for at least five years. Because funds are limited, homeowners in need are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Along with these resources, Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-37 extended the foreclosure protections established by House Bill 4204 (2020 1st special session). Oregon homeowners in need should contact their lender or a Homeownership Center for relief options.

APPLY FOR FOOD, CASH AND OTHER ASSISTANCE FROM HOME DURING OREGON TWO-WEEK FREEZE

(Salem, Ore.) – With Gov Brown’s statewide Two-Week Freeze to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 across state, here’s a reminder that all Oregonians can apply for food, cash and child care assistance provided through the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) from home without having to visit an office in person.

Visit govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits for information on how to apply for assistance using the ODHS online application, email, mail, telephone or application drop off.

Oregonians who need urgent and ongoing food assistance can visit needfood.oregon.gov.

Older adults or people with disabilities who need additional information about resources available to help can call 1-855-ORE-ADRC (1-855-673-2372) or visit www.adrcoforegon.org.

Information on how to apply for domestic violence assistance can also be found at govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits.

While many ODHS offices remain open to the public for essential business, we encourage members of the public to apply online, by email, by phone, or to call before coming in. In most cases, you don’t need to visit an office in person to get assistance.

For more ways to connect with ODHS or to find other types of assistance, contact 211info:

Weekly cases and hospitalizations at record highs

OHA’s COVID-19 weekly report released today set pandemic highs for daily cases and hospitalizations.

OHA reported 6,491 new daily cases during the week of Monday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 15, a 25% increase over the previous record-high week. The percentage of positive tests for COVD-19 increased to 12.5% from 11.9%, even with an increase in the number of people tested.

Weekly hospitalizations from COVID-19 rose to 291, the highest yet reported in the pandemic.

There were fewer deaths, 31, associated with COVID-19 than the previous week’s record high of 42.

People aged 20 to 49 accounted for 51% of the cases, while people 70 and older accounted for 75% of deaths.

Note: This week’s report includes a report on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. This includes people living in congregate or residential settings.

To date, there have been 5 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who have died from COVID-19 associated illness.

This total comes from matching client lists from the state’s Office of Developmental Service Disabilities and the COVID-19 database.

Today, the State of Oregon announced it is joining the national Get Covered 2021 campaign, spearheaded by Get Covered America, Covered California, and the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

Oregon joins 14 states and the District of Columbia that are promoting Get Covered 2021, demonstrating the state’s commitment to helping people stay safe during the pandemic and making sure they have the ability to get quality health care when they need it.

“The pandemic has placed a renewed focus on the importance of staying healthy and safe,” said Governor Kate Brown. “During this open enrollment period, it’s critical for all of us to seek insurance coverage, not just because of COVID-19, but for preventive care and financial protection in case of serious illnesses and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. We owe it to ourselves and our families to get covered in order to have access to life-saving services.”

Recognizing the link between COVID-19 and the benefits of health insurance, Get Covered 2021 is focused on two key priorities:

  • Stay healthy: Every American has a role to play in reducing the spread of the virus and keeping communities safe through safe practices: Wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.
  • Get insured: Every American should have affordable insurance coverage to help them stay healthy and get the right care when they need it. Let’s make sure the 16 million people eligible for financial help now know where to go and get help signing up.

Oregon has consistently worked to help Oregonians who do not get health insurance through their job or a program such as the Oregon Health Plan or Medicare to understand their coverage options. This year, Oregonians face additional challenges to getting enrolled in health coverage due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Oregon’s devastating wildfires, but Oregonians should not delay; open enrollment ends Tuesday, Dec. 15. If you miss the deadline, you may not be able to get coverage for 2021.

Financial savings are available for most Oregonians. In 2020, more than seven in 10 Oregonians who chose plans through HealthCare.gov got financial help for monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Individuals making up to $51,040 per year and families of four making up to $104,800 may get help paying for coverage. These savings lowered the average premium to just $145 per month.

“Oregon is proud to be a part of the Get Covered 2021 coalition to advance efforts to protect against COVID-19, and to close the coverage gap by getting all eligible Oregonians enrolled in health insurance,” said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “We are proud to work alongside all of the partners in the Get Covered 2021 coalition to send the message in Oregon and across the nation that we are standing together to help Americans stay safe and healthy, and that coverage and financial help is there for them during a time they need it the most.”

To get started with health coverage enrollment, people should go to OregonHealthCare.gov before Dec. 15 and answer a few Oregon-specific questions to get to the right application for them. Also, they can search the “get help” directory on the site to find an insurance agent or community partner organization that can help them complete the application and enroll. Insurance agents and community partners provide local, one-on-one assistance at no charge to the client. This help is available virtually and over the phone.

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