COVID-19 RESOURCES

 

Be a leader.  Retired Admiral William McRaven recently wrote about the importance of leadership and inspiration during trying times.  He recalled a difficult time in SEAL training when the instructors promised a break from unremitting harsh conditions if only some of his fellow trainees would quit.  Instead, someone started singing, leading them all to join in, and preventing anyone from quitting.  We will all have moments of weakness in the coming struggle.  Be the one who inspires, not the one who quits. 

Call 911 for emergencies. This system will continue to operate as usual. 

 

Call 211 for non-emergency assistance from helping agencies.  Keep in mind that the government responds in much the way you do – by taking care of emergency needs first and taking time to find solutions for longer term issues.  That means that we won’t always have a ‘final answer’ right at the time you call, but we always want to hear what you see coming down the pike, since that helps us shape our response. 

 

Scale of government response. In an emergency, the state would have about $250 per person in new resources.  Why so little?  Traditionally, Oregonians have preferred a comparatively small state government, and we cannot borrow money.  However, we are fortunate in that we also have fully funded unemployment insurance and workers compensation programs. The federal response to date works out to $340 per person, with an additional $3,000 per person potentially in the next federal legislation.  That is borrowed money – an essential to respond to the crisis, but it will need to be repaid eventually and collectively through taxes. 

 

Healthcare is the first priority in this crisis.  The number one factor for survival when someone contracts the disease is getting appropriate healthcare.  Oregon has only 6,600 standard hospital beds and 688 ventilators.  OHSU estimates that, by April 11, COVID-19 cases will occupy 1,000 beds and 400 ventilators.  While there are national stockpiles of ventilators, these are small compared with the demand, and ventilators require trained staff to operate them 24/7.  We are working to boost staff and bed capacity by having healthcare personnel work to the top of their scope of practice and using healthcare personnel outside of their usual work.  We are marshaling the resources we can, including opening a 250-bed emergency facility in Salem.  We are working to integrate across healthcare systems to make sure that we match patients to resources, regardless of where they are in the state.  Nationally, we have asked for help in the form of stockpiles of medical materiel.  Also, the 1000-bed, 80-ventilator Navy hospital ship Mercy is being activated to support the entire West Coast.  Whether these are sufficient to meet the demand depends on you and the success of the social distancing program we hope you are following.  Social distancing is essential for reducing the likelihood of contracting the disease.   

 

Health care coverage. The Oregon Health Plan is available at any time. Individuals can learn more about their eligibility and what benefits might be available here. The Governor is waiving some requirements to help get people covered quickly. 

  

Mental Health is a challenge with the new stresses imposed by this crisis.  The Oregon Health Authority shared this list of things you can do to take care of your mental health during this difficult time. Additional resources are available here. 

  

Crime victim services.  Unfortunately, not everyone is safe at home.  Here is a list of resources to victims of crime, including domestic violence. Additionally, here is a list of crisis lines: 

 

 

Food.  For those in your communities in need of food resources because of the loss of a job or income: 

 

 

Local faith groups and community organizations, such as the Sunday Interfaith Breakfast, that normally provide free meals are reorganizing their service plans. They will continue to serve prepared food, but must change formats to avoid creating social gatherings that spread the disease.  Watch for news about their new arrangements. Meanwhile, the need for financial support has grown.  Here are some charities who need your donations to meet the local demand during this crisis. 

 

 

Unemployment, workers compensation, taxes and financial assistance.  Access to unemployment insurance and workers compensation has been expanded.  The most current guidance is here.  Oregon passed an emergency rule to expand access.  The details are here.  Bottom line – please apply, even if you think you may not qualify.  Eligibility is expanding rapidly and you may qualify by the time your application is considered.   

 

 

 

Childcare.  The Employment Related Daycare (ERDC) program has made changes, eliminating the family copay and increasing the maximum income thresholds for eligibility - the new, increased income guidelines are available on their website by family size. Providers are also able to continue billing under certain circumstances during temporary closures and for children who are not attending due to the current crisis. Providers, parents, and caretakers with questions can contact the Direct Pay Unit at DHS at 1-800-699-9074. 

 

For childcare providers who are interested in providing emergency childcare: you may apply with the Early Learning Division here. For questions, contact ccrr@wou.edu or call 1-800-342-6712

 

Taxes.  Filing your 2019 tax return can also provide a quick financial lift.  While federal filing has been postponed until July 15 and state filing is likely to follow, please remember that there’s no point in delaying filing if you are due money.  If you file and are owed a refund, it will be paid.  Keep in mind that we had a significant kicker this year and both the state and federal governments have an Earned Income Tax Credit, so you may be entitled to a refund, even if you don’t usually get one.  Also, you may be eligible for free filing online.  Check here. 

 

 

Direct aid.  We will likely see some sort of federal program of direct payments soon.  Proposals are being floated in Washington, DC, with some consisting of payments to individuals based on income and number of children and others of ‘plus ups’ of existing programs.  I’ll keep you posted with what I hear. 

 

Housing.  I have heard from many of you about housing.  Rent and mortgage payments are coming up at the end of the month.  While the state probably lacks the legal authority to forgive or freeze rents, the courts are effectively closed to eviction and foreclosure actions, along with many other civil actions, for the duration of the emergency.  For individuals facing rent crises, you may contact local providers about emergency rent assistance or shelter. In any event, be sure to let your bank or landlord know about your situation. Many people are willing to make alternative arrangements, given the scope of this illness.  Also, if your mortgage is backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, they have extended up to a one-year forbearance.  Private lenders are expected to follow soon.  Here are some agencies that might be able to help with housing. 

 

Student loans.  Federal student loan payments may be suspended for 60 days under a recent announcement.  This does not happen automatically, but does include setting the interest rate at zero until at least May.  Contact your loan servicer to take advantage of this break.  

 
Business assistance.  For businesses (including the self-employed) and non-profits, please look at the Small Business Administration’s emergency loan program.  These low-interest loans (1.8-3.6%) can help you make payments.  I expect that some of the loans will be forgiven in time, as has happened in past emergencies.  The proposed federal legislation will likely significantly expand these programs and focus on small businesses. 

Additional resources: 

  • Identifying Coronavirus Phishing Scams - As this pandemic intensifies, scammers and spies have seized on people’s fear and confusion to steal their private or financial data. This guide lays out the known phishing scams related to the coronavirus and some tips for how consumers can identify new scams and protect themselves.  

  • Dos and Don’ts of Coronavirus ProtectionRecently, there’s been a lot of misinformation circulating about how to protect from the coronavirus outbreak, and some companies are even taking advantage of this crisis to market public health and cleaning products that do not work. This guide separates fact from fiction to help consumers keep safe without falling victim to false claims.  

  • Refunding Your Travel During COVID-19 - Calls for social distancing and limiting travel amid the growing crisis has many Americans wondering how to recoup the costs from cancelled travel plans. Our guide breaks down how top airlines and hotels have adjusted their policies and provides instructions for how consumers can refund their bookings with each respective company.  

Pets.  The Humane Society has an FAQ with resources for pet owners here.  The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association has answers to your animal health questions here.  For those of you considering adopting a furry friend, most animal shelters are closed to the public, but you can still call to get an appointment to adopt.  If you have horses and need help feeding them, the Oregon Hay Bank would like to help.

Volunteering/Donating.  Finally, some of you generous souls have asked how you can help.  If you’re interested in volunteering, please consider registering at https://serv-or.org/, where the state keeps a list of volunteers and calls them up for duty in an organized fashion.  You may also want to call any organization that you currently volunteer with, or have within recent memory, to help out.   

 

Hang in there!  We are all working together to get through this! 

 

Marty Wilde is a member of the Air National Guard. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Air Force or the Department of Defense.

PAID FOR BY WILDE FOR OREGON