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Oregon lawmakers pass COVID-19 relief in special session

During a special session in Salem, lawmakers passed a list of bills aimed at keeping Oregonians in their homes while helping struggling landlords and businesses.

SALEM, Ore. — Less than two weeks before tens of thousands of Oregon households were due to be evicted, state lawmakers came through.

During a one-day special session in Salem, lawmakers passed a list of bills aimed at keeping Oregonians in their homes while helping struggling landlords and businesses stay afloat.

Chief among them, Senate Bill 5731 and House Bill 4401. In short, an $800-million relief package for Oregonians impacted by the pandemic and this summers' wildfires.

They include a six-month extension of Oregon’s residential eviction moratorium. That will now stretch until the end of June. Lawmakers also dedicated $50 million to rental relief.

At a press conference Monday night, House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney were exhausted and proud.

“Legislators showed up and did their jobs. Ten hours; four really important bills,” said Kotek (D-North Portland).

Lawmakers set aside $150 million to pay landlords up to 80 percent of what they're owed by struggling renters. Those who accept will have to flat out forgive the other 20 percent, at least for now.

Monday critics of the bill argued the state should do more to cover that gap.

“What I want to make sure of, is that we don't feel we're also forgiven, [we need] to try and make that up to the landlord. Because we still can provide a tax credit,” said Rep. Brian Clem, (D) Salem.

Monday night, housing advocates were grateful. “At this darkest time of the year, the passage of the tenant stability package right before the holidays gives renters some hope and some light,” said Sybil Hebb, Director of Legislative Advocacy, Oregon Law Center.

Leaders in the restaurant industry were happy too. Senate Bill 1801, which will allow restaurants to start selling cocktails and single servings of wine to go, also passed.