Rogue Valley News, Friday 5/7 – Medford Police Complete First Week of Prohibited Camping Enforcement; Grants Pass Department of Public Safety Recognized for Excellence in Policy and Training

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

Friday, May 7, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Partly sunny, then gradually becoming sunny, with a high near 67. Light north northwest wind increasing to 5 to 9 mph in the afternoon.

Saturday- Patchy frost before 10am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 70. Calm wind becoming northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Sunday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 70. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Monday- Sunny, with a high near 77.
Tuesday- Sunny, with a high near 84.

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Oregon reports 763 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 5 new deaths

There are five new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,514. The Oregon Health Authority reported 763 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 189,162.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (12), Benton (14), Clackamas (38), Clatsop (3), Columbia (9), Coos (3), Crook (14), Curry (4), Deschutes (95), Douglas (13), Grant (3), Harney (1), Hood River (2), Jackson (38), Jefferson (4), Josephine (9), KIamath (31), Lake (1), Lane (70), Lincoln (2), Linn (42), Malheur (5), Marion (72), Morrow (1), Multnomah (115), Polk (20), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (9), Union (1), Wallowa (2), Wasco (2), Washington (107) and Yamhill (20).

Oregon’s 2,510th death is a 69-year-old woman from Josephine County who tested positive on April 4 and died on April 30 at her residence. She had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 2,511th death is a 91-year-old woman from Jackson County who tested positive on April 28 and died on May 4 at Providence Medford Medical Center. She had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 2,512th death is a 50-year-old man from Klamath County who tested positive on April 20 and died on May 4 at Sky Lakes Medical Center. He had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 2,513rd death is a 63-year-old man from Linn County who tested positive on April 15 and died on May 3 at Salem Hospital. Presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

Oregon’s 2,514th death is a 68-year-old man from Marion County who tested positive on April 20 and died on May 4 at Salem Hospital. He had underlying conditions.

OHA releases latest monthly update on breakthrough cases

Oregon Health Authority has identified 611 COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases through May 3, including eight deaths. The number of vaccine breakthrough cases identified in Oregon remains very small when compared to the more than 1.3 million people who have completed their vaccine series against COVID-19.

Vaccine breakthrough cases are defined as instances in which an individual received a positive COVID-19 test result at least 14 days after the completion of any COVID-19 vaccine series.

OHA is not reporting the regions in which the deaths took place. Of the 611 reported vaccine breakthrough cases, 14% (n=89) were observed in individuals who reside in long term care facilities or other congregate care settings.

OHA is now providing updates on breakthrough cases the first Thursday of each month. The current report for May 2021 can be found here.

Oregon counties have new indoor capacity limits for indoor recreation and indoor entertainment

Under the direction of Governor Brown, indoor capacity limits in moderate- and high-risk levels are now updated for indoor recreation and fitness and indoor entertainment for Oregon counties. As of Wednesday, May 5, indoor entertainment establishments and indoor recreation and fitness establishments in all Oregon counties may allow the following:

  • Moderate risk: Maximum 20% occupancy or 100 people total, whichever is larger
  • High risk: Maximum 10% occupancy or 50 people total, whichever is larger

Lower and extreme risk capacity limits for these sectors remain the same.

To view the updated capacity limits, please refer to the Sector Risk Level Guidance Chart.

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 36,259 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 23,539 doses were administered on May 5 and 12,720 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on May 5.

The 7-day running average is now 30,909 doses per day.

Oregon has now administered a total of 1,706,865 first and second doses of Pfizer, 1,349,096 first and second doses of Moderna and 101,923 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. As of today, 1,353,250 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. There are 1,902,244 who have had at least one dose.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

To date, 2,062,125 doses of Pfizer, 1,692,720 doses of Moderna and 242,800 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data, and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today.

COVID-19 hospitalizations

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 328, which is two fewer than yesterday. There are 90 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is seven more than yesterday.

The total number of COVID-19 positive patient bed-days in the most recent seven days is 2,364, which is an 8.7% increase from the previous seven days. The peak daily number of beds occupied by COVID-19 positive patients in the most recent seven days is 351.

The total number of patients in hospital beds may fluctuate between report times. The numbers do not reflect admissions per day, nor the length of hospital stay. Staffing limitations are not captured in this data and may further limit bed capacity. More information about hospital capacity can be found here.

Church in Salem has one of Oregon’s Largest Covid Outbreaks

The Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday that 74 people had contracted Covid through an outbreak tied to the church after beginning an investigation after Easter Services in April. Ironically, the church’s lead pastor, Scott Erickson had joined nine other Oregon churches in a 2020 lawsuit unsuccessfully seeking to overturn Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order.

Oregon’s current Covid health guidelines allow indoor church services, but require attendees wear masks or face coverings, maintain six feet of distance between people from different households and clean frequently-touched surfaces regularly.

Capacity is also limited based on a county’s risk level. Counties labeled “high risk” for Covid spread, including Marion, limit faith gatherings to 25% occupancy or 150 people, whichever is smaller.

Health officials say the fourth wave of the pandemic may have peaked in Oregon.

 The Oregon Health Authority reports new cases declined three percent over the last week.  Hospitalizations dropped 18-percent, while the number of deaths declined 38-percent.  Meanwhile, the percent of positive tests increased from six to six-point-eight percent.

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Medford Police Complete First Week of Prohibited Camping Enforcement

Implementation of the Prohibited Camping Ordinance began on Monday, May 3 as officers posted a 72-hour notice at seven campsites along the Bear Creek Greenway.

The Medford Livability Team focused on the area around I-5, near exit 30.

This area was targeted due to the heavy vegetation causing a fire risk and was the site of two recent homicides.

The 72 hour timeframe was spent funneling resources to individuals at the identified campsite.

By Thursday morning, each of those individuals had accepted transitional shelter options, or made other arrangements. The Livability Team provided transportation of people and their belongings to their new arrangements, as needed. No enforcement action was taken.

With the assistance of the Medford Parks and Recreation Department, Public Works, ODOT, and Rogue Retreat Clean Sweeps, the area was cleaned up as close to its original condition as possible. Sixty yards of trash and debris were removed, utilizing dumpsters donated by Rogue Disposal.

“We’re happy we could connect individuals to services and address the fire and public safety concerns along this area of the Greenway,” said Scott Clauson, Chief of Police. “I want to reiterate that this process will take weeks, most likely months, as we continue to work to connect campers with services and clean the Greenway up.”

Medford Police Livability Team and our partners will continue these efforts along the greenway, with the goal of connecting individuals to resources, cleaning up the area, and reducing fire danger.

Background: The Medford City Council voted to approve the Prohibited Camping Ordinance on Friday, April 2. The ordinance provides clear time, place and manner regulations regarding sleeping or camping outside. Click here for more details on the prohibited camping ordinance. — Medford Police Dept.

Grants Pass Department of Public Safety Recognized for Excellence in Policy and Training

Media Releases | Grants Pass, OR - Official Website

Last year, Grants Pass Police personnel responded to more than 34,000 requests for assistance— everything from disturbances and criminal investigations to mental health crisis interventions and animal complaints. To maintain a consistent and professional response, the department relies on comprehensive, up-to-date policies.

Recently, the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety was recognized by the Lexipol Connect program for achieving Gold level for consistently and effectively disseminating policies to officers, issuing timely policy updates as laws change, and ensuring officers are trained on policies.

Lexipol is the nation’s leading content, policy, and training platform for public safety agencies; the Connect program tracks GPDPS performance on five metrics proven to measure success in policy management.

“Our commitment to internal oversight highlights a sincere desire to build community trust and nurture police legitimacy. Policy – and regularly training on policy – is crucial to the success of the department. We are proud to be recognized by Lexipol Connect for continuously improving professionalism and safety,” says Chief Warren Hensman. 

The Department of Public Safety’s excellence in policy and policy training enhances community safety by ensuring consistent, effective response based on national best practices.

For more information, visit www.grantspassoregon.gov or www.lexipol.com. — Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety

CEO of United Way of Jackson County Joins Oregon Community Foundation Board of Directors, Representing Southern Oregon

Dee Anne Everson New OCF Board Member PHOTO

Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) today announced that the Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Jackson County, Dee Anne Everson, joins the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Ms. Everson replaces outgoing Board member, Sue Naumes, and follows in the footsteps of Lyn Hennion, Bill Thorndike and other community leaders in representing Southern Oregon. She brings expertise in economics, finance, leadership and nonprofit administration.

“Dee Anne Everson will be a terrific addition to the Board, and we are delighted that she is joining us in support of the important work ahead to advance opportunities for all Oregonians,” says Kimberly Cooper, Chair, OCF Board of Directors. “Her expertise and experiences in generating community-led solutions inspired and funded by generous Oregonians align perfectly with OCF’s vision, mission and values, and will help create significant impact as we continue to come together to address the challenges and opportunities facing our communities.”

Ms. Cooper went on to recognize outgoing leader, Sue Naumes. “In this new role, Dee Anne Everson stands on the shoulders of other Southern Oregon giants who preceded her, building on the most recent success of outgoing Board member and immediate-past Board Chair Sue Naumes, whose outsized contributions to the State will be long-remembered. We are immensely grateful to Ms. Naumes for her leadership and dedication to OCF and to Oregonians these many years, and although she will be missed on the Board, she will always remain part of OCF’s extended family. It’s been such a pleasure serving together in support of the greater good.”

Ms. Everson officially joins the OCF Board of Directors today, May 6, 2021, following unanimous Board approval at her first OCF Board meeting. “It is remarkably humbling to help represent Oregon, and particularly Southern Oregon, as a part of OCF’s Board,” says Dee Anne Everson. “I am committed personally and professionally to improving the quality of life for all of us.  And, we can do this.  We’re Oregonians.” Ms. Everson will Chair OCF’s Southern Oregon Leadership Council, as well as serve on the Board’s Community Engagement Committee, and the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Ms. Everson also serves on United Ways of the Pacific Northwest Board of Directors, Jackson County Juvenile Justice Committee, Jackson County Threat Assessment Committee and other committees and boards.

“For the past twenty-five years Dee Anne Everson has devoted herself to making Southern Oregon a better place to live, work and play.  She is widely recognized as a change-maker and has earned the respect, trust and affection of her community,” says Amy Cuddy, Philanthropic Adviser and OCF’s Regional Director for Southern Oregon. “Dee Anne’s deep knowledge of the challenges that communities face and her optimistic approach to meeting those challenges will serve OCF and all of Oregon well.”

Ms. Everson was appointed as CEO in 1997, and under her leadership, United Way of Jackson County launched the Day of Caring, Women Living Leadership, the Meth Task Force, Child Abuse Network, the BIG IDEA (100% high school completion for the Class of 2020),  and In This Together, a Southern Oregon suicide prevention campaign.

Ms. Everson has been recognized by Oregon Business Magazine as one of Oregon’s 50 great leaders and was named the Nonprofit Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award from the Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.

About Oregon Community Foundation: Oregon Community Foundation puts donated money to work in Oregon – more than $100 million in grants and scholarships annually. Since 1973, OCF grantmaking, research, advocacy and community-advised solutions have helped individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create charitable funds to improve lives for all Oregonians. Impactful giving–time, talent, and resources from many generous Oregonians–creates measurable change. For more information about OCF, please visit: oregoncf.org. — Oregon Community Foundation

Pacific Power Announces New Grants to Support Southern Oregon and Northern California Communities this Spring

Grants were awarded to food security, safety and wellness initiatives aimed at strengthening the region as the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding from the Labor Day Storm continues

Even as COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the country, many communities are still facing challenges from the pandemic and the organizations that support them are still seeing unprecedented demand. For organizations that are also supporting the rebuilding efforts from last year’s Labor Day Storm, the demand is even greater.

In spite of the odds, local programs that address critical issues such as food insecurity, homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse, elder issues, mental health and community safety have continued to find creative new ways to deliver help quickly and safely, even while facing additional budget constraints.

As part of the company’s commitment to supporting its communities, PacifiCorp Foundation, a nonprofit arm of Pacific Power, is donating more than $525,000 across the six states it serves. The funding goes to support a total of 209 safety and wellness grants as part of the most recent round of quarterly grants provided by the foundation each year. The next grant cycle is now open through June 15; organizations may apply online.

“We celebrate these heroic organizations that have continued to reinvent and reimagine ways they can help our communities’ most vulnerable,” said Christina Kruger, Pacific Power regional business manager for Medford. “Although we see brighter days ahead, Pacific Power remains deeply committed to supporting the work of these organizations, helping to fortify our communities, so they are strong and resilient.”

The following grants were given to Southern Oregon and Northern California organizations providing critical safety and wellness programs:

  • Asante Foundation for the purchase of clothes washers and dryers and new linens for the Francis Cheney Family Place, a guest residence for out-of-town patients and family members who are receiving care at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.
  • Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon to provide credit counseling to low-income residents to help them overcome poverty.
  • Friends of the Children of the Klamath Basin for essential mentoring services for at-risk children during the pandemic to help them become strong, resilient community members.
  • Great Northern Services for helping supply free summer lunch services for children in disadvantaged communities throughout Siskiyou County.
  • Hornbrook Community Association for ADA restroom improvements as they rebuild a community space after the area was devasted during a wildfire.
  • Illinois Valley Family Coalition to help maintain essential services, including emergency food boxes, for this community that has been affected by the pandemic and wildfires. 
  • Klamath Basin Senior Citizens’ Center for supplying nutritional support to seniors through Meals-on-Wheels and critical transportation services.
  • Klamath KID Center for a new hot water heater for this facility that has provided essential daycare services for the area, even during the pandemic.
  • Pregnancy Hope Center to initiate a car-seat program and a safe-sleep program for low-income families to help reduce Klamath County’s high infant mortality rate.
  • Siskiyou Family YMCA to help renovate and refurbish the gymnasium that, in addition to providing a space for recreation, also serves as space for community events and a childcare program for frontline workers.
  • Sky Lakes Medical Center’s Klamath-Lakes CARES program for crisis response to at-risk children, especially during COVID-19 restrictions.
  • St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry for purchase of a generator and food supplies so the pantry can continue to help families and individuals in Jackson County who are struggling with food insecurity.
  • Upper Rogue Community Center for an emergency backup generator for the center which serves as an emergency Red Cross disaster shelter for the Shady Cove area in Jackson County.
  • Wilderness Trails to provide camping experiences to help the health and well-being of at-risk and foster youth from Southern Oregon.

About the Pacific Power Foundation: The Pacific Power Foundation is part of the PacifiCorp Foundation, one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created in 1988 by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 2 million customers in six western states as Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington and California) and Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/foundation. — Pacific Power 

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Forestry Department Invites Public Comment on State Forest Management Activities

Salem, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Forestry is inviting public comment on planned projects, timber sales and other management activities in state-owned forests for fiscal year 2022. These plans lay out the on-the-ground activities expected to take place in the coming fiscal year, such as timber harvests, reforestation, and trail improvements.

Starting Friday, May 7 through Monday, June 21, Oregonians can weigh in on the draft annual operations plans for state forests in the Astoria, Forest Grove, Klamath-Lake, Tillamook, West Oregon, and Western Lane Districts, which includes the Tillamook, Clatsop, Sun Pass and Gilchrist state forests. Draft plans are available at: https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Working/Pages/StateForests.aspx

 ODF is offering several convenient avenues for those who want to provide input on the draft plans:

By law, state forests must provide economic, environmental, and social benefits to Oregonians. These lands are managed to create healthy, productive forests that provide high-quality habitat, clean water, revenues for rural communities, and recreation opportunities. Overall management policies and goals are established in long-range forest management and implementation plans. Annual operations plans describe activities to achieve the policies and goals laid out in those longer-range plans. Activities that affect fish and wildlife habitat are reviewed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, while operations that may affect threatened and endangered fish and wildlife habitat are shared with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Common activities included in an Annual Operations Plan include:

  • Timber harvest operations
  • Recreation improvement and maintenance projects
  • Forest road construction, maintenance, and improvements
  • Reforestation/replanting and young stand management activities
  • Habitat improvement for native species
  • Invasive species management

The most useful input speaks to these specific activities and whether they are consistent with longer-range plans, offers suggestions to improve efficiency or effectiveness, corrects errors, provides additional information, and is solution-oriented, understanding that state forests are working forests and by law must provide a variety of economic, environmental, and social benefits.

A public comment process on planned projects, timber sales, and other management activities on the North Cascades District for fiscal year 2022, including extensive restoration efforts on the Santiam State Forest, will be conducted separately. — Oregon Dept. of Forestry

STEM Hub Oregon to Host Over 100 Events as Part of Remake Learning Days Across America, the Nation’s Biggest Family-Friendly Festival of Learning, Returns in 2021

Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA) returns this spring in 17+ regions, launching more than 700+ innovative learning events to engage caregivers, parents and kids around the country.

Oregon’s network of regional STEM Hubs will host more than 100 event during this learning festival between May 8 and 16, 2021. These events are designed for parents and caregivers to learn alongside their kids and offer relevant and engaging educational experiences for youth of all ages (pre-K through high school). The majority of events are free and are offered virtually, in-person or in hybrid models. 

Oregon’s festival of events will capture the themes of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and more and include in-person and virtual events such as:

  • KATU Innovation Challenge – Student Finalist Pitches (Virtual) 
  • Oregon Connection Industry Chat – Visit a Wildlife Safari! (Virtual) 

https://remakelearningdays.org/event/virtual-visit-to…life-safari-copy/

  • Glendale Community Library – STEAM Week at the Library! (In-Person)

 https://remakelearningdays.org/event/steam-week-at-th…re-stem-thinking/ ‎

Find a complete list of events and registration information here 

Oregon’s regional STEM Hubs create equitable access to real-world STEM experiences for learners across Oregon, igniting students’ passion for STEM.  Oregon’s STEM Hub network was honored as a Learning Forerunner in education by Finland’s HundrED.org in 202.

Remake Learning Days Across America is led by Remake Learning (RL), a network that ignites engaging, relevant, and equitable learning practices in support of young people navigating rapid social and technological change. National partners of RLDAA include PBS Kids, Digital Promise, Common Sense Media, Learning Heroes and Noggin. RLDAA is generously supported by The Grable Foundation, The Hewlett Foundation, Schmidt Futures, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation. Visit remakelearning.org for more information or follow RL on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. For more information specifically on Remake Learning Days Across America, visit remakelearningdays.org or follow RLDAA on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and the hashtag #RemakeDays.  —Future School Lab 

Firefighters fully line the Meadow Fire north of Chiloquin and started as a prescribed burn.

According to fire officials, the Meadow Fire is 815 acres in size, all of it within the 4,000 acres that were planned for the initial treatment.

As of Thursday morning, the fire was 5 miles northeast of Chiloquin and continues to move away from the community.

On Wednesday night, two heavy air tankers dropped retardant, checking the fire to allow crews to get around it.

The Winema and the Rogue River Hotshots, 21 engines and 5 dozers were also mobilized to help and successfully got the fire lined. On Thursday morning the Zigzag and La Grande hotshot teams arrived, along with three more engines, four water tenders and the Type 3 incident management team.

Oregon says it won’t be ready to start providing paid family and medical leave benefits

Oregon says it won’t be ready to start providing paid family and medical leave benefits by a January 2023 deadline and has asked lawmakers to delay the rollout of the state’s long-anticipated program. A bill introduced in the Oregon
House on Tuesday on behalf of the Employment Department would give the state agency until September 2022 to adopt rules to establish the program and would defer the date when employers must begin paying into the program until January 2023 – delaying both deadlines by a full year.

If the bill is adopted, Oregon workers would not start seeing benefits through the new program until September 2023, eight months after the program is currently supposed to go into effect. Both advocates of the legislation and the Employment Department said the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the vital need for paid family and medical leave Oregon became the ninth state to commit to offering a paid family and medical leave program when
lawmakers enacted the Oregon Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program in 2019.

Tax Season Coming to a Close

The deadline to file state and federal personal income tax returns—May 17—is approaching, and the Oregon Department of Revenue estimates it will receive more than half a million more returns between now and then.

Obtaining Your Business Identification Number (BIN)

At least 1.5 million Oregonians have already filed their state personal income tax returns. The department is expecting about 2.2 million returns this year.

While most returns are processed without issue, there are a number of reasons returns may get flagged for additional review, including miscalculations on the return, misapplied payments, or missing documentation. Some of these can be corrected automatically, but others may require a request for more information or validation of the information by a staff member.

If your return ends up in manual review status, the best thing taxpayers can do is respond to any requests from the department as quickly as possible. Generally, taxpayers will receive letters requesting additional or missing documentation or asking them to take an identity verification quiz.

Do you owe taxes?

Those who owe taxes must make their payments by the same due date as their return, May 17. Some taxpayers are granted filing extensions, which means their returns aren’t due until October 15. However, an extension to file is not an extension to pay. Interest on taxes due starts accumulating the day after the return is due.

To make a payment:

Online: Make or schedule electronic payments from your bank account or by credit or debit card through Revenue Online at www.oregon.gov/dor.

In person: The department’s field offices can no longer accept cash, but they do still accept payments by check, money order, or credit or debit card by appointment. Cash payments are only accepted at the department’s main office in Salem. Appointments can be scheduled using the department’s self-service tool on the Contact Us page of Revenue’s website.

By mail: If you’re mailing your payment separate from your return, be sure to include a payment voucher so it can be appropriately credited. Visit www.oregon.gov/dor/forms for a blank personal income tax payment voucher (OR-40-V). The department’s website also has a list of mailing addresses for personal income tax payments. To avoid penalty and interest, your payment must be postmarked by May 17.

If you can’t pay your taxes, please contact the department as soon as possible. Based on your financial situation, you may be eligible for a payment plan.

Do you still need to file your return?

File electronically. E-filing is the fastest way to get your tax refund. Taxpayers who e-file their returns and request their refund via direct deposit receive their refund sooner than those who file paper returns and request paper refund checks.

Free e-filing. All Oregon taxpayers preparing their own returns can file electronically at no cost using Oregon’s free fillable forms. There are many other free or low-cost preparation options available for both federal and Oregon tax returns. Some software companies offer free software use and e-filing for eligible taxpayers. Visit the Department of Revenue website to take advantage of the software and free offers and get more information about free tax preparation services.

Earned Income Tax Credit. You may be missing out on a bigger refund if you’re not claiming the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Eligibility information is available at www.irs.gov/eitc. Taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC can also claim Oregon’s Earned Income Credit (EIC).

Unemployment exclusion. Unemployment benefits are generally treated as income for tax purposes. The American Rescue Plan enacted on March 11, 2021 allows individuals with modified Adjusted Gross Income of less than $150,000 to exclude up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits at the federal level, which Oregon follows. For taxpayers who already filed before the law was enacted, Oregon is adjusting these returns for the exclusion. If you are one of these taxpayers and have not received a refund or a notice of adjustment by the end of May, please contact the department.

The Department of Revenue continues to expand features available through Revenue Online. Individuals can view letters sent to them by the department, initiate appeals, make payments, and submit questions. Visit Revenue Online to learn more.

To get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make payments, visit www.oregon.gov/dor or email questions.dor@oregon.gov. You can also call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon. For TTY (hearing or speech impaired), we accept all relay calls. — Oregon Dept. of Revenue

Man Admits Role to Smuggle Endangered Turtles from Oregon to China

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, May 6, 2021

California Man Pleads Guilty For Role in Scheme to Smuggle Endangered and Vulnerable Turtles from the U.S. To China

EUGENE, Ore.— A Chinese national residing in Los Angeles pleaded guilty today for his role in a scheme to purchase hundreds of endangered and vulnerable turtles in the U.S. and smuggle them via U.S. mail and commercial airline flights to China.

Yuan Xie, 30, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiring to smuggle goods from the U.S.

According to court documents, beginning in at least May 2017 and continuing until October 2018, Xie conspired with another Chinese national, Xiao Dong Qin, 35, of Shanghai, China, to purchase more than 769 live turtles from reptile dealers in Alabama, California, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, and South Carolina. All of the turtles purchased and smuggled by Xie are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

A two-year investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) revealed that in an 18-month period, Xie facilitated the purchase and transportation of approximately 134 Florida box turtles, 178 eastern box turtles, 127 North American wood turtles, 220 spotted turtles, 77 diamondback terrapins, 25 three-toed box turtles, seven yellow-blotched map turtles, and one Blanding’s turtle from his former residence in Eugene, Oregon. USFWS investigators determined the cost of the turtles involved in this investigation exceeded $150,000 and estimated the market value was more than double that amount in the Chinese pet trade.

In November 2018, Xie was arrested by USFWS agents at his residence in Los Angeles.

Xie faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He will be sentenced on August 12, 2021 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.

As part of the plea agreement, Xie has agreed to pay $2,233 in restitution to a rehabilitation facility near Chicago and The Turtle Conservancy near Los Angeles for costs associated with the care of turtles intercepted by law enforcement.

Qin was sentenced on February 27, 2020 to two years’ probation and paid nearly $8,000 in restitution.

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This case was investigated by USFWS with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It is being prosecuted by Pamela Paaso, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-or/pr/california-man-pleads-guilty-role-scheme-smuggle-endangered-and-vulnerable-turtles-us

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