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Oregon Lawmakers Try To Head Off Evictions With Rent Relief

Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Renters whose incomes have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are running out of time before local eviction moratoriums end.

Right now, renters in Oregon are protected from evictions or being charged late fees because of pandemic-related job losses. But those protections end on October 1. Renter protections are set to expire even sooner in California, in less than a week, at the beginning of September.

“I think we’re definitely seeing dire warnings on a national basis around what could happen around evictions,” says Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland. “That’s why we’re trying hard here to get on top of it.”

In an effort to avoid a cascade of evictions this fall, lawmakers in Oregon have approved approximately $60 million in rent relief for people whose income has been hard-hit by the pandemic.

COVID rental relief is being distributed by local agencies. In Southern Oregon they include ACCESS, the Family Nurturing Center, UNETE and United Way, among others. Individuals whose employment has been affected by COVID and who make less than 80% of median income can apply.

Oregon’s unemployment rate jumped from a nearly historic low of 3.5% in March to 14.9% in April, according to the Oregon Employment Department. The unemployment rate has since decreased to 10.4% in July.

Oregon Employment Department
Unemployment in Oregon jumped to 14.9% in April. It has since decreased to 10.4% in July.

The initial ban on evictions was created by Gov. Kate Brown and later passed into law by state legislators in response to COVID-related job losses.

In addition to preventing evictions, the current renter protections also allow for a six-month repayment period for tenants who need to pay back rent. According to Marsh, a similar assistance program exists for home owners who are at risk of missing mortgage payments. That allows owners to defer payments to the end of their mortgage period.

“We’re very worried about homelessness becoming an even bigger issue because of the fact that people are on the edge,” Marsh says.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.