It's a Wrap: Legislators approve COVID, wildfire relief for Oregonians

The Oregon Legislature met for special session Monday and passed four bills to address those who have been affected by the early fall wildfires and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Those affected by wildfires and COVID-19 have some relief coming their way.

Following a call to legislators from Gov. Kate Brown to review a proposed $800 million relief package,

the Oregon Legislature met for special session Monday and passed four bills to address those who have been affected by the early fall wildfires and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The bills address housing, schools, restaurants and wildfire recovery.

Bill summaries

• House Bill 4401 extends the eviction moratorium through June 30 if renters can’t pay their rent due to the impacts of COVID-19. It also provides $150 million in funding to cover overdue rent payments and aid eligible renters from falling further behind and compensate landlords.

• House Bill 4402 provides temporary liability protections for schools complying with COVID-19 emergency rules, adding incentive for schools and school authorities to follow health directives. It also provides whistleblower protections to third-party contractors like bus drivers, custodians and food service providers.

• Senate Bill 1801 provides restaurant relief by allowing the sale and delivery of mixed drinks to-go if the drink is sold in a sealed container. It also puts a cap on fees charged by third-party delivery services, only allowing a 15% fee.

• Senate Bill 5731 includes $600 million to allow the state to fund pandemic-related programs and make up for the federal CARES Act funding that expires at the end of this year. It also provides more support for residents affected by this year’s wildfires, and $150 million for the Landlord Compensation Fund and $50 million for rental assistance, as seen in House Bill 4401.

Over two dozen states have adopted similar policies allowing restaurants to provide to-go mixed drinks, as passed in Senate Bill 1801, to help restaurants recoup some of the loss of not allowing in-house service. Alcoholic drinks, like cocktails and wine, are where restaurants typically see their highest profit margins.

“Despite our success today, I’m frustrated that we couldn’t do more, including an extension of foreclosure protections that expire next week,” House Speaker Tina Kotek said in a release. “We need to do all we can to avoid the mistakes of the Great Recession and keep people housed. This means recognizing that income inequality has been magnified by the pandemic, especially for communities of color and low-income workers.”

Brown said the special session was called to provide more resources for residents who have made sacrifices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“These funds are critical to protect Oregon families and small businesses,” Brown said in a release. “I am so glad they took up critical, COVID-19-related policy bills that will provide relief for tenants and landlords, extend the eviction moratorium and create avenues to support restaurants and bars.”

Protest

Oregon State Police (OSP) declared an unlawful gathering during a protest at the capitol building on Monday, Dec. 21, and arrests were made.

According to a release from OSP, while dealing with individuals that had gained entry into the Oregon State Capitol, OSP troopers where sprayed with some kind of chemical agent on two different occasions.

At 8:30 a.m. when protesters entered that capitol building, at least one of the protesters used chemical agents on the police. That person is still outstanding. OSP used inert pepper ball, while dealing with these protestors.

At 10:30 a.m. when there were enough resources available between OSP and Salem Police Department, they started to push the crowd out of the building, when another individual used bear spray against police officers.

That person, who has been identified as Ryan Lyles, 41, was taken into custody. He was lodged at Marion County Jail on multiple charges, including trespassing and assaulting a police officer.

OSP said troopers did not deploy any CS gas.

At 1:30 p.m. a subject attempted to gain entry on the west side of the Oregon State Capitol building by breaking a widow of one of the doors. He was taken into custody, according to the OSP.

The Oregon State Police encourage people to exercise their first amendment rights, but it must be lawfully," the release read. "Please, discontinue the acts of vandalism or destruction of property. If you commit a crime you will be subject to arrest."

OSP released the following details later Monday evening concerning the protest.

On Monday, Dec. 21, at approximately 8:30 a.m. a group of people attempted to enter and protest inside the Oregon State Capitol. The Oregon State Capitol is closed due to COVID precautions.

The Oregon State Capitol had set up televisions outside of the building for people to monitor the proceedings inside. Oregon State Police troopers had checked and secured the doors to the capitol building. A door on the northwest corner of the building was opened by a person exiting the building.

Several protesters entered the vestibule area. There they were contacted by troopers and asked to leave. As troopers attempted to keep them from entering the main area of the capitol, the altercation became physical, which included pushing. A protester sprayed some kind of chemical irritant (mace /OC / bear spray) into the vestibule.

Troopers used inert pepper balls to keep the crowd back. The pepper balls are essentially a paint ball filled with an inert powder. Salem Police officers were able to keep the crowd contained in the vestibule.

OSP troopers and Salem Police officers gave everyone in the vestibule several warnings to leave or they would be arrested for trespassing.

At approximately 10:30 a.m. a protester again sprayed a chemical irritant at police. Police arrested Ryan Lyles, 41, for felon in possession of body armor and unlawful use of mace. Protesters also deployed a device, which emitted smoke during the engagement.

Two people remained in the vestibule and were arrested, Ronald Vanvlack, 75, and Jerry Dyerson, 53, and charged with Criminal Trespass and Disorderly Conduct.

At approximately 1:30 p.m. the crowd again attempted to gain entry through a door on the west side of the Capitol. The window to the door was broken, but the building was not accessed. Police arrested Jeremiah Pruitt, 35, for Criminal Mischief and Disorderly Conduct.

Jeremy Roberts, 40, was also identified as a person that attempted to gain access through the west door and an attack on two reporters. Troopers were attempting to locate Roberts and he was not currently in custody at the time of the OSP release.

All arrested were lodged at the Marion County Jail and charges will be referred to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office for consideration.

According to OSP, the third special session of the 80th legislative assembly was able to continue and conduct legislative business throughout the day.

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