Legislators propose stopping evictions, expanding unemployment and requiring interest-free loads to businesses to help Oregon survive coronavirus

Restaurants have started adjusting to the temporary ban on inside dining. At Mal’s Diner in Vale, staff put a sign up at the entrance door letting customers know the best way to continue ordering. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

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SALEM – Two key Oregon legislators are proposing a 90-day plan for Oregonians to avoid evictions, get food, and keep health insurance while directing banks to help businesses survive with interest-free loans.

The plan was proposed Friday by Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response. The committee was scheduled to meet Friday afternoon to consider their proposal.

“These recommendations are to help Oregonians get through the next 90 days,” they said. They called on the Oregon Legislature to act by March 31, anticipating a special session soon.

They are calling for a moratorium on both residential and commercial evictions for inability to pay because of the novel coronavirus outbreak and financial support to the state’s utilities to of low-income families and businesses.

They want to speed up the award of state food benefits to needy Oregonians, provide money to food banks around the state and use the Oregon National Guard to distribute food.

For the tsunami of unemployed workers, the plan would bolster the state’s unemployment fund by diverting the anticipate corporate tax rebate – the “kicker” – while making it easier for Oregonians to qualify for unemployment benefits. That would include no longer requiring them to be searching for work, ending the one-week waiting period and providing benefits to those “who are forced to quit their jobs due to objective risk and in order to avoid exposure to the virus.”

The plan also would drive money to “community partners” to expand their ability to help those in high-risk populations, such as seniors and people with underlying health issues, and “to respond to basic needs of self-quarantined individuals.”

For employers, who are closing down in increasing numbers every day across the state, the legislative plan would require all state banks and lenders to provide no-interest loans, take interest-only payments during the emergency, and prohibiting banks from declaring borrowers in default for missed payments.

The plan also would expand child care by reducing regulations to, among other impacts, allow child care operations to set up in “ad hoc facilities.”

And liquor sales would be allowed for takeout food orders. Restaurants and bars are prohibited from seated dining but can provide delivery and takeout service.