The Oregon Capitol building in Salem. Photo: Chas Hundley

Governor Kate Brown announced she will convene a special session of the Oregon Legislature at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, December 21 to ask lawmakers to provide $800 million in financial relief for Oregonians who are suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic, and for those who experienced loss during last summer’s wildfires.

“Oregonians are making tremendous sacrifices to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Brown said in a press release. “While the risk reduction measures we have put in place are working to slow the spread, many Oregon families are struggling with unemployment, housing, food insecurity, and paying their bills — and those most impacted are the same people who are often left behind, including rural, Black, Indigenous, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities.

I continue to call on Congress to pass another robust coronavirus relief bill to bring support to the American people, but these calls have not yet been heeded,” she continued. “It is clear that states must act on their own to provide a bridge until federal help arrives. This is why I am calling on legislators from both sides of the aisle to come together in the best interests of the state.”

Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod (R-Lyons) issued a statement a few hours after the governor’s press release, saying proposed legislation includes COVID-19 liability protections for schools, which he said is critical to their reopening, support for renters and landlords, and technical changes in the restaurant industry "that will help hard-working Oregonians and small businesses."

“There is significant work to be done in the upcoming 2021 long session, and Republicans will continue to advocate for liability protections for our health care system in the coming weeks,” Girod said.

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) also issued a statement, saying senate Democrats will answer the governor’s call for action and work together to aid Oregonians as the state faces the most challenging months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must act now to provide shelter and safety for countless Oregonians by extending the moratorium on tenant evictions into next year,” Wagner said. “We will vote to provide economic relief for small businesses and restaurants.

“It is inexcusable and reprehensible that the federal government has not passed COVID-19 support, or any relief funds, since March. Federal action is long overdue, and I renew my consistent calls to action for the Republican-led U.S. Senate to find whatever motivation it needs to simply do its job and come to the assistance of Oregonians and people across our great nation.”

"No one should lose their home during a global pandemic. Small landlords need our help now too," said State Representative Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro) in a statement on Twitter. Her district also includes Roy and areas just outside of Banks, as well as the city of North Plains.

Brown’s budget plans include priorities for tenants and landlords, funding for vaccine distribution and contact tracing, wildfire prevention and community awareness, and support for reopening schools. 

The current moratorium and deferral on rent payments on residential properties in Oregon are set to expire on Dec. 31. Lawmakers want to extend the eviction ban through June 2021 as many government officials work to keep people housed during the unemployment crisis that resulted from lockdowns and thousands of businesses across the state being closed during the rapid spread of COVID-19 last spring.