United States Capitol. Photo: Chas Hundley

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) held a hybrid press conference and town hall meeting via Zoom on March 12 where he discussed how the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan directly benefits Oregonians.

Wyden said Oregon will receive $5 billion overall from the bill, including the provision to provide $1 billion in new payments to rural governments and to tribes. “That would be a first for tribes and rural counties,” he said.

The bill also expands child tax credits to benefit more than 779,000 kids and lower childhood poverty in Oregon by 50 percent, Wyden said. 

Now, parents or parents with primary custody, receive child tax credit payments after filing their annual income taxes. The COVID-19 relief bill allows tax credit payments to be paid out periodically beginning this July.

It also changes the amount of the credit from a maximum of $1,400 dependent on income to $3,600 for younger children or $3,000 for kids six years old or older. 

The IRS website shows the bill also exempts the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits for individuals with a gross income of less than $150,000. 

Wyden said the bill also includes money for a start-fresh approach to mental health crisis counseling based on the Cahoots novel program created in Eugene.

Cahoots, which is operated by the White Bird Clinic, when called provides mobile crisis intervention teams to the scene of a mental health crisis. Each team consists of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and licensed crisis worker or someone who has several years of experience working in the mental health field. 

The teams provide “immediate stabilization” in case of a psychological crisis or other urgent need, along with assessment, information, referral and advocacy, and in some cases transportation for immediate treatment, the Cahoots website says.  

A similar Mental Health Response Team that exists in Washington County provides residents on-site, or on-the-streets as some refer to it, mental health crisis intervention.  

Wyden said there are other items that weren’t included in the Covid relief bill due to Senate procedural rules, and he plans to introduce legislation that takes care of at least some of those needs for Americans. 

He said an important piece of that proposed legislation would prevent predatory debt collectors from seizing part or all of an individual’s stimulus payment.

Wyden said Republicans after the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak worked with Democrats to provide Americans a shield from debt collectors for 2020 stimulus payments and he hopes they’ll do it again.

“I think senators will have problems going back to yesteryear now,” he said.