Klamath Basin News, Monday, 5/22/23 – Complaints Over Acceptable Library Programming In The News; City and County Road Crews Busy With Renewing Road Conditions; K.I.D vs Bureau of Reclamation Heats Up With New Petition

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Klamath Basin Weather

 This Afternoon
Mostly sunny, with a steady temperature around 71. Northwest winds to 11 MPH. Overnight, cloudy with a low around 44 degrees and light winds. 
 
Tuesday
Sunny, with a high near 76. Northwest wind to 10 mph. Overnight, clear, with a low 44.
Wednesday
Sunny, with a high near 80. West northwest wind 5 to 8 mph.
Thursday
Sunny, with a high near 82.
Friday
Sunny, with a high near 82.
Saturday
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 79.
 

Today’s Headlines

Complaints from members of the community have Klamath County Commissioners and library administrators at a crossroads over acceptable library programming.

After the cancellation of Klamath County Library’s Social Justice Book Club, questions asked by residents as well as county officials, library administration and members of the library advisory board have remained unanswered.

On April 18, library administrators were instructed to remove the Social Justice Book Club from library programming by an unnamed county official after an unknown number of complaints were received by Commissioners Dave Henslee and Derrick DeGroot.

Henslee told the press he received multiple complaints from county residents but did not provide a number of complaints received.

Henslee said he was not aware of any such direction when he was asked about the county’s decision to remove the program three weeks before the county met with library administrators.

Complainants, the two commissioners said, were displeased with the chosen book for the month of April — “No More Police: A Case for Abolition” — and did not approve of taxpayer money spent on programs which the public could perceive as political.

Since then, the decision on whether to cease all library programs which have the potential to be construed as political has been notably unclear.

Dozens of residents have spoken on behalf of maintaining this and other library programs during two recent Klamath County Library Advisory Board meetings.

The library advisory board presented a draft of a letter intended to respond to the county’s discontinuation of the social justice book club during a meeting Wednesday, May 17.

On Thursday, May 18, Oregon Public Broadcasting brought together Commissioner Kelley Minty, library advisory board member Lois Taysom and Assistant Library Director Charla Oppenlander to discuss the issue.

Minty, who acts in the role of library liaison for the county, explained her idea for an alternative solution by asking for volunteers to moderate any relative programming to avoid complaints of a misuse of taxpayer funds.

In doing so, Oppenlander said, the library would no longer have control over the topics discussed, and these topics would still be presented as a representation of the library.

 

The City of Klamath Falls is adding some new language on behalf of people experiencing homelessness to the City Code this week.

City Attorney Michael Swanson addressed City Council during the Monday, May 15 meeting to explain the changes necessitated by state law and local circumstances.

The council held a public hearing which addressed the city’s lack of a contracted public defense attorney to represent indigent persons incarcerated for municipal infringements. Changes listed pertained to camping regulations and penalties within the city.

Swanson explained that when the previous contracted attorney relocated for new employment, the city sought contracts with other local attorneys, but none responded.

Without a public defense attorney, the city is unable to provide citizens the right to representation.

Council approved the removal of criminal charges as penalties within the city code, allowing only for violations.

A public hearing also was held regarding whether the city should adopt new language in the city code to better conform to federal and state laws pertaining to camping and resting in public spaces.

Previous wording in the city code prohibited camping on any public lands.

Council approved changes to the code to enforce time limits and allowable parameters for locations of camping sights.

The city also approved annual grant funding for nonprofits during the meeting, allocating $314,640 in total.

The maximum award per year is $50,000 with additional funds being granted at the city’s discretion for special projects. Funding is to be awarded July 1.

Klamath County Economic Development Association was granted $75,000, with an emphasis on workforce housing development accounting for the additional funds.

South Central Oregon Economic Development District also will receive a grant totaling $75,000 with a special project emphasis on a blight reduction program.

The Klamath Falls Downtown Association will be awarded $55,000 with additional funds to be focused on downtown parks programming. The downtown association also will receive an additional $21,000 through the Downtown Maintenance District for the purpose of replacing and maintaining downtown light posts and hanging potted floral displays.

 

Last marked another significant move by the Klamath Irrigation District (K.I.D) to safeguard the interests of its farmers and countless others across the Western United States.

Backed unanimously by its publicly elected Board of Directors, K.I.D has lodged a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, aiming to overturn the recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Klamath Irrigation Dist. v. United States Bureau of Reclamation.

This ruling threatens the livelihoods of thousands of Oregon farmers, jeopardizes established water rights, and challenges the foundations of domestic tranquility. The Supreme Court’s consideration of K.I.D.’s appeal holds immense implications for millions of Americans, as the contested Ninth Circuit ruling risks negatively impacting water rights across the Western United States if it remains unopposed.

The petition to the Supreme Court signals a crucial juncture in the long-running dispute between farmers and the federal government over water rights in Oregon’s Upper Klamath Lake.

With no other viable means to safeguard farmers’ property, K.I.D. initiated legal action in federal court, seeking to compel the United States to honor the water rights determinations outlined in the Klamath Adjudication.

K.I.D. and its landowners express profound frustration as their water rights are undermined by policymakers situated thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C., while their property rights’ fate now rests with the judiciary. Stay tuned.

 

An awards luncheon held last week recognized students enrolled in the TRiO program at Klamath Community College who earned academic honors during the current school year.

A grant-funded supplementary support program active at many colleges and universities, TRiO functions as added support services for qualifying students that are disabled, low-income, or a first-generation college attendee. Services provided include tutoring, computer access, academic advising, workshops, and transfer assistance. TRiO also provides direct and peer-led support, scholarship assistance, and regularly coordinates cultural and social experiences for its students.

As an organization, TRiO provides a positive learning and support environment ensuring student success in the classroom and community. The results of the support provided are tangible, with 75 of 140 enrolled TRiO students (53%) achieving academic honors in fall or winter term of the current academic year. The average age of TRiO students is 30.

The awards keynote speaker, KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, shared his successful college experience thanks largely to the support provided during his initial attempt at earning his GED and later higher education success.

Vice President of Student Affairs Gail Schull shared similar sentiments, detailing her experience as a community college graduate and first-generation college student.

Students were also given an opportunity to share their personal experiences. Kevvin Tiefenback highlighted how TRiO and KCC have helped him turn his life around following many years of incarceration. Annabela Mendoza explained how TRiO has helped her build resiliency, and Maria Fonseca-Bigham gave insight into her lengthy journey from Mexican migrant picking fruit to becoming a soon-to-graduate nurse.

Each honors student was presented with a certificate and congratulations from Pres. Gutierrez and KCC TRiO Director Zach Jones. Many of the honors recipients will get to duplicate the experience next month at KCC’s Commencement Ceremony, scheduled for Friday, June 16, presented in-person and livestreaming on the KCC YouTube channel.

 

Klamath County or utility companies will have work crews throughout the county this week.

Motorists are asked to use caution when in work areas and to watch for flaggers. Any motorists who are able to avoid the work zones are asked to use an alternate route for their safety and the safety of Klamath County employees and contractors.

Utility work will be done in the vicinity of Stearns Elementary School with intermittent lane closures. Work is scheduled for Crest Street from Clinton to Denver and for Laverne Avenue from Crest to Altamont.

Bobs Excavating is scheduled to perform storm sewer work.

Patching and asphalt paving is scheduled for Westside Road, while crack seal work is slated for the Bonanza area.

Traffic control measures will be in place for guidance. Motorists should use alternative routes if possible.

In general, flagging stations will be set up at the end of the work zone and delays will be zero to 20 minutes for the motoring public. The county’s goal is to minimize the delay to the motoring public.

There might be adjustments of work schedules due to weather or other items outside of the county’s control such as breakdown of equipment or material/resource availability.

Residents are asked not to contact the county if work is not seen occurring because it could be finished already or will be rescheduled.

For more information, contact the Public Works Department at 541-883-4696.

 

Klamath Falls Streets Division crews will be performing work this week, as well.

From 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, May 22 through Friday, May 26, crews will be at work across the city.

The Asphalt Crew will be performing asphalt repairs at the following locations:

  • Monday: South 6th Street between Martin Street and East Main Street
  • Tuesday: Shasta Way between Avalon Street and Washburn Way
  • Wednesday: Shasta Way between Washburn Way and South 6th Street
  • Thursday: 3900 block of Clinton Avenue, 3500 block of Boardman Avenue and the 3900 block of Miller Avenue

The Paint Crew will be striping and painting legends and crosswalks on the Oregon Avenue bike lane and on Klamath Avenue between Veterans Park and Spring Street from Tuesday through Friday.

The Sign Maintenance and Sweeping Crew will be workout all week through the city as needed.

Detours and signage will be in place where needed.

Citizens are asked to proceed with caution in areas where crews are working. Work might be delayed or canceled due to weather, equipment breakdown or unexpected emergencies.

For more information, call the City Public Works Department at 541-883-5363.

 

There is a stir of excitement at the Klamath Tribes Ambodat Department with the first steps being taken to bring Chinook salmon back to their Klamath homeland.

Recently, Shahnie Rich and Lottie Riddle, Klamath Tribal members and employees at Ambodat, joined a team of biologists and partners in tagging juvenile Chinook in order to study their downstream movement through the Upper Klamath Basin.

Rich was one of several fish surgeons that implanted acoustic tags in the juvenile salmon to track their movements from their release sites on the Wood and Williamson Rivers, through Upper Klamath Lake and downstream in the Klamath River. This was a collaborative effort involving the Klamath Tribes, Trout Unlimited, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Cal Poly Humboldt, Oregon State University, U.S. Geological Survey, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.C. Davis.

The c’iyaal’s (salmon) along with c’waam (Lost River sucker), koptu (Shortnose sucker), and meYas (trout) were important food resources for the Klamath Tribes for thousands of years. Tribal peoples lived in harmony with the land and its natural resources. They were caretakers of the land, water and natural resources through traditional ecological knowledge.

However, with settlement, there were major changes to the Klamath Basin associated with irrigated agriculture, logging, livestock grazing, flood control, road construction, power generation and other developments. Chinook salmon, which spend several years in the ocean before migrating to rivers over 275 miles up the Klamath River to spawn, have been blocked since 1912 when the first dams were installed. Fortunately, the four major Klamath River dams are scheduled to be removed by 2024, allowing the salmon free passage back to the Upper Klamath Basin.

The fish originated from the Trinity River Hatchery as eggs, which were transported to the Klamath Hatchery for rearing to the optimal size. On April 12, in the Williamson River, 350 salmon were released, and in the Wood River, 352.

 

This winter’s deep snowpack will delay the opening of some Deschutes National Forest campgrounds in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

According to a press release, many locations are still under significant snow that is not anticipated to melt out in time for reservations to begin next Friday, May 26.

The following campgrounds, which were slated to open prior to or on Memorial Day Weekend, will be delayed in opening:

Visitors with reservations at the above locations through June 1 can expect to see a refund and cancellation email soon, the press release states. Vista Recreation, the campground concessionaire, and the Forest Service are monitoring the snow levels at these locations and will begin hazard tree removal and preseason maintenance as soon as snow recedes in order to open campgrounds as soon as they are able to safely do so.

While the above campgrounds will be delayed in opening, the Deschutes National Forest has several campgrounds that have opened or will be opening prior to Memorial Day, the press release states.

The press release states that to check which campgrounds on the Deschutes National Forest are currently open, go to www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/deschutes/recreation.

During the spring and early summer recreation season, the Forest Service reminds visitors that it’s extremely important to “Know Before You Go.” This means confirming that your destination is open for use, checking to see if routes of travel are open and reviewing predicted weather forecasts. Forest Service roads are not plowed or maintained during winter conditions.

For more information about the closures, contact the Deschutes National Forest at 541-383-5300.

 

Around the state of Oregon

Senate Bill 337 Would Make Sweeping Changes To Oregon’s Public Defense System

With just weeks remaining in Oregon’s legislative session, Gov. Tina Kotek is changing the course of a long-sought overhaul of the state’s public defense system. 

Kotek sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Rules this month requesting changes to Senate Bill 337, the bill meant to address a constitutional crisis that’s left thousands of people accused of crimes without attorneys.

Kotek’s letter comes after lawmakers and policy experts have spent more than a year crafting the legislation. Some public defense leaders say Kotek’s request for last-minute changes would force them to oppose legislation they otherwise support.

Senate Bill 337 would fundamentally change how Oregon provides lawyers to people who can’t afford them. It would create, for the first time, public defenders who are state employees, and phase out the use of contracted for-profit defense firms.

Among the changes is a provision that moves the Office of Public Defense Services, the state agency responsible for public defense. No longer would it be within the judiciary. National legal experts argue public defense must be independent of the courts and politics. The current version of the bill would do that by moving public defense to the executive branch, but with provisions to ensure no one person or entity can hire and fire the people in charge of the state’s public defense agency.

Kotek does not want the state’s failing public defense system as part of the governor’s portfolio of state agencies. If that move were to happen, Kotek’s letter states, the governor must have the authority to hire and fire the agency’s head and to remove its commissioners to achieve “true accountability.”

Kotek’s requests have received traction. After all, the governor has the authority to veto the bill. Based on her letter, Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth, drafted amendments that lawmakers are poised to take up in committee on Tuesday.

“We have been sitting around following scenarios and talking about it for far too long, and we need to have structural, systemic change,” Evans said Saturday.

But Kotek’s request is also at odds with national recommendations as well as a 2019 report she took credit for getting funded, which laid out a series of structural changes necessary to make the public defense system independent of both judges and politicians.

The Kotek-backed proposed amendments have created a tension that could undermine the effort to solve problems that Kotek, lawmakers and the state’s public defense commission all say are deeper and more important than whatever branch of the government houses the agency.

For years Oregon leaders have known the state has too few attorneys and too little oversight to ensure people are getting the criminal defense they’re entitled to under the constitution. Over the past year and a half, the crisis has grown to include thousands of people accused of crimes without attorneys. Hundreds of them are in jails.

From mid-August to mid-March, more than 3,700 Oregonians charged with crimes were unable to get a court-appointed lawyer, according to data compiled by the Judicial Department at OPB’s request. As of Thursday, more than 1,600 people did not have attorneys, including more than 240 people in custody.

In her May 11 letter to lawmakers, Kotek said she shared their urgency to address the crisis, but said moving the agency would “distract from the core mission” of trying to provide adequate criminal defense.

“I have yet to hear anyone articulate how moving branches will get a single person an attorney,” the governor wrote. “Moving an agency that is not fully functioning from one branch to another is not, on its own, going to fix this long-standing problem.”

If lawmakers are determined to move the agency, Kotek stated, “it will be important to add changes to the bill” to treat public defense like other agency leaders who serve at the governor’s discretion. Kotek told lawmakers the governor should also be able to remove members of the Public Defense Services Commission, which sets policy and manages the Office of Public Defense Services through its executive director.

In 2019, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Sixth Amendment Center completed a report that the Oregon Legislature funded. It found Oregon’s public defense system, housed within the state’s judicial branch, was unconstitutional and structurally flawed.

One of the report’s recommendations was creating more independence so that the commission in charge of public defense is not entirely appointed by the chief justice of the state’s supreme court.

“There’s U.S. Supreme Court case law that calls for the defense function to be independent of government interference,” Jon Mosher, deputy director of the Sixth Amendment Center, told Oregon lawmakers at an informational hearing on May 11. “National standards point governments toward how best to implement structures to answer that question. Number one is creating an independent commission.”

While running for governor, Kotek touted the Sixth Amendment Center’s work.

“In 2018, I made sure the legislature funded a study conducted by the national Sixth Amendment Center, which ultimately revealed significant structural problems in the state’s public defense system,” Kotek said during her campaign.

But Kotek is now proposing authority for the governorship that would go against the recommendations of that same report, which says no single branch of government should have too much control over public defense.

On Thursday, the public defense community pushed back against the governor’s provisions, saying they would corrode independence that they say is fundamental to their work.

Public Defense Services Commission member Jennifer Nash told fellow commissioners Thursday that they should oppose any move that would put the agency under the governor’s office, a move the Office of Public Defense Services estimated would cost $15 million.

“My feeling is we ought to oppose the move, period,” Nash said. “We know the governor doesn’t want us, so let’s grant her wish.”

“Where it sits is less important than maintaining its independence and getting to the root causes of our inability to provide the level of defense service that we’re required to,” said Max Williams, another commissioner. “That’s where we ought to be spending our time.”

On Friday, the commission’s leaders sent a letter to lawmakers stating they would formally oppose Senate Bill 337 if the rules committee adopted the amendments Kotek wants.

“Oregon must not move backward and erode the core tenet that public defense remain independent from political pressures,” the commission’s letter stated, “so that is empowered to appropriately and zealously advocate against the government.”

Some of those closest to the bill are conflicted about what to do over the governor’s sudden interest in the legislation.

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, co-chaired the work group that drafted the bill and chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prozanski on Friday said he planned to support the governor’s amendments, despite having concerns about them.

“It’s got to be something that the governor is going to accept,” Prozanski said Friday.

But by Saturday morning the senator had a change of heart. In an email, Prozanski stated that after reading the public defense commission’s opposition letter and reflecting on the matter, he no longer supported Kotek’s amendments. Prozanski said he believes there should be a higher threshold for removing the state’s head of public defense than at the will of the governor.

Evans, who co-chaired the public defense work group with Prozanski, said he introduced the latest amendments because, even before her letter, the governor’s staff was clear with him and other lawmakers that Kotek did not want to add public defense to her office’s responsibilities.

“The governor has enough messes that she’s trying to work on and she didn’t want this in the executive branch,” Evans said. “Because it has been such a challenge, she wants a little additional capacity to be able to push people to do their jobs.”

Evans acknowledged that the legislation was a late departure from national recommendations. He said the compromise was a political reality.

Lawmakers and advocates for public defense have been trying to bring about systemic reform for years. In 2019, they failed to pass a bill that contained many of the same elements of Senate Bill 337. Any chance for legislation this year hinges on Senate Republicans ending a walkout that has stalled all work in the Oregon Senate since early May.

Evans said that, after months working on the bill, he’s losing what patience he had for seeing a growing number of people charged with crimes go without a public defender.

“I am angry, very angry,” Evans said, “we can’t even make sure that the justice system is providing defense for people when we’re charging them with crimes. There are very few things that are more fundamental to trust in government.” (SOURCE)

 

Enrollment in Oregon preschools is growing, but still lags behind most other states, according to a new report. 

Child care is becoming more readily available for families across Oregon. But state workers and lawmakers are still fighting for long-term improvements.

new report from Oregon State University found that available child care slots for young children in Oregon grew by almost 5% from March 2020 to December 2022, thanks in part to increased public funding.

The vast majority of Oregonians support increasing state funding to support child care needs, according to public opinion surveys , and more than half of Oregonians with young children reportedly spend a fifth of their monthly income on child care. More than half of Oregon employers say child care access is a challenge in hiring and retaining workers.

OSU researchers tallied 71,153 child care slots for ages 0-5 in 2022, up from 67,981 in 2020. But there is still work to pursue to increase child care throughout the state, university officials said.

The increase lifted several counties out of “child care desert” status, according to a recent news release. A child care desert is an area where at least three children exist for every child care slot available. Severe deserts are defined as having at most one slot for every 10 children.

Since March 2020, eight of Oregon’s 36 counties have moved out of desert status for preschool-aged kids ages 3-5, according to the report, and another eight became less severe deserts for infants ages 0-2 and toddlers.

Though all Oregon counties except Gilliam County remain child care deserts for infants and toddlers, researchers found the number of publicly funded slots for this age group increased by 49%.

“We’re seeing a lot of those counties coming out of desert status because of the additional supply being developed from public funding,” Michaella Sektnan, co-author on the report and senior faculty research assistant in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, said in the release. “Without that public funding, all except three counties would be child care deserts.”

Most of the public funding for child care in Oregon comes from the Early Learning Account created by the Student Success Act of 2019, officials said.

One-time child care stabilization grants disbursed as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 helped private child care programs during the pandemic. The programs include Oregon Prenatal to Kindergarten, Preschool Promise and Baby Promise, all state-administered programs that receive both state and federal dollars.

Public funding is currently making a bigger difference in rural counties than in more metropolitan counties, the report found.

Overall, 52% of slots for children ages 0-5 in non-metropolitan counties are publicly funded, compared with 20% of slots in metropolitan counties. Only Deschutes, Multnomah and Washington counties would continue to not be deserts without public funding.

 

Oregon’s Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.0% in April 

Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.0% in April, down from 4.4% in March. For the past 21 months since August 2021, Oregon’s unemployment rate has remained relatively steady and near historic lows.

The unemployment rate averaged 4.2% in that time, while ranging between 3.5% and 4.8%. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.4% in April and 3.5% in March.

In April, Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1,600 jobs, following a revised gain of 1,300 jobs in March. In April, gains were largest in other services (+1,700 jobs) and health care and social assistance (+900). Declines were largest in construction (-1,000 jobs) and manufacturing (-600). Since April 2022, Oregon has added 38,400 nonfarm payroll jobs (+2.0%).

Other services is an industry made up of a variety of service establishments, such as repair, maintenance, laundry, religious organizations, and social advocacy organizations. Employment in this broad industry rose to 66,000 in April, reaching a record high, and for the first time surpassing its prepandemic peak of 65,500 in February 2020. Other services employment has recovered at a fairly steady pace over the past two and a half years.

Health care and social assistance continued its recent rapid expansion. It added 11,500 jobs (+4.3%) during the past 12 months, which was the most jobs added of the major industries in that time. Social assistance, at 73,400 jobs in April, expanded rapidly in recent months, adding 7,300 jobs since April 2022. Nursing and residential care facilities also grew rapidly, adding 2,800 jobs in that time.

Both durable goods manufacturing and nondurable goods manufacturing have cut slightly more than 1,000 jobs each in the first four months of the year. Durable goods industries declining in that time include computer and electronic products, wood products, fabricated metal products, and transportation equipment. Within nondurable goods, food manufacturing has cut jobs this year, and is down 1,000 jobs since April 2022. The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the April county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, May 23, and the next statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for May on Wednesday, June 14.

To file a claim for unemployment benefits or get more information about unemployment programs, visit unemployment.oregon.gov.

 

10 Oregon Senators have disqualified themselves from reelection as of May 18, as the Republican-led walkout of state senators continues in Salem.

Since the beginning of the Walkout on May 3, Republicans have said it’s a protest against Senate President Rob Wagner (D – Lake Oswego) claiming he’s breaking Senate rules and violating the Oregon Constitution. Oregon Democrats, on the other hand, said Republicans are trying to halt legislation.

Several bills have been stopped dead in their tracks by the walkout, including bills on abortion and health care for transgender individuals. Other proposals that aren’t moving forward include a proposal to fund a veterans home in Roseburg, allow Oregonians statewide to pump their own gas, and a program to help homeless students. Many stopped bills have Republican sponsors or co-sponsors.

Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber (D – Beaverton & SW Portland) called it a sad day, and said people’s faith in Oregon’s democracy was shaken thanks to the actions of Republicans. She said the minority party is trying to overrule the will of the people who elected a majority Democrat legislature, and that Senate Democrats have been showing up to do their jobs.

“Instead of accepting the results of the election and realizing that in a democracy you accept the election results, you believe in the rule of law and the majority governs,” Lieber said. “The minority plays an incredibly important part, and that important part is to show up do your job debate on the floor of the senate, work behind the scenes with your colleagues to make sure that we are crafting policies that work for all Oregonians and to show up and take a vote. You can vote no, that’s your job.”

Senate President Rob Wagner said the missing senators are ignoring voters who passed Measure 113, and called on Republicans to show up to do their job.

“The founders of our country warned us of the dangers of a minority veto, and capitulating to this outrageous demand will not strengthen our democracy — it will only encourage more walk outs as we’ve seen,” Wagner said.

Democratic leaders have placed the blame on Senate Republican Leader Tim Kopp (R – Bend) who they believe planned this from the beginning.

Knopp responded, “Senate Republicans are engaged in a peaceful, constitutional protest of the unlawful, uncompromising, and unconstitutional agenda the untrustworthy and deeply partisan Senate President has brought forward. We commit to Oregonians and our Democrat colleagues that we will return before the constitutional sine die to suspend readings and rules on lawful, substantially bipartisan budgets and bills.”

Knopp also said Democrats are “laser-focused” on issues that divide people, while Republicans are focusing on issues that Oregonians care about like homelessness, public safety, the cost of living and more.

 

OHCS announces new pause in accepting Homeowner Assistance Fund applications

SALEM, ORE. — Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) will pause accepting new applications for the Oregon Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program at 4 p.m. PST May 31. This pause will allow OHCS to process current applications in its queue and better project the amount of federal HAF funds remaining for homeowners. The state previously paused at the end of 2022 for the same reasons and has been reopened to accepting applications since March. 

“HAF is pausing again to make sure there are enough funds for qualifying homeowners who’ve already applied,” said Ryan Vanden Brink, assistant director of Homeowner Assistance Programs. “The program will likely reopen once we process additional applications already in the queue. If you are a homeowner falling behind, we encourage you to reach out to a state-approved homeownership center right away.”  

Homeowners who are most at risk of foreclosure and housing displacement, socially disadvantaged individuals (as defined by U.S. Treasury), or otherwise meet one of the additional eligibility criteria listed at oregonhomeownerassistance.org are encouraged to apply for HAF assistance before 4 p.m. PST May 31.  

If a person has previously applied or begun an application, the pause will not impact them. Those who started their applications will still be able to access and complete them, and those applications that were previously submitted will still be processed. Applicants can continue to log on to the HAF portal to check the status of their application or scheduled payments. They can opt in to email alerts as their application advances.  

To serve the most at-risk homeowners, as an exception to this pause, OHCS will continue to accept new applications submitted by housing counselors on behalf of homeowners who are in a judicial foreclosure or forfeiture action or have a verified foreclosure sale date. If a person is in a judicial action or in a nonjudicial foreclosure and can provide documentation of a pending foreclosure sale date, they should apply before the pause or work with a free housing counselor to submit their application.   

OHCS planned its HAF program to operate as a safety net for the most at-risk eligible homeowners who have no viable workout options, and it will continue to operate HAF this way during the pause. As of May 12, 2023, OHCS approved 1,027 applications, totaling over $30 million of the $72 million budgeted for homeowners. In addition, 1,301 applications are currently being reviewed and 1,320 applications have been started but not completed for processing. At least 219 of the submitted HAF applications were or are in active foreclosure.  The average award disbursed is nearly $30,000 per application. 

Free help is available – During this pause, homeowners who have fallen behind or are at risk of missing a payment on their mortgage can continue to get free help from certified housing counselors around the state to learn about budgeting tools and evaluation of options to keep their homes, such as modifications, adding deferred payments to the end of a mortgage, or HAF. HAF may not be the best option for everyone, and it may prevent homeowners from servicer options available for different types of loans. Housing counselors are knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated professionals who can help homeowners communicate with their mortgage servicers. 

Search the full list of free certified housing counselors by county. Homeowners should be aware that some housing counseling agencies take longer to respond due to the holidays and remote working policies.  

In addition to connecting with a certified housing counselor, Oregon homeowners should directly contact their mortgage servicers and lenders to see what types of mortgage assistance and foreclosure prevention programs are available. Homeowners who communicate with their lenders and servicers have some additional protections and usually have more time to figure out their options. 

Avoiding fraud – The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services recommends being extremely cautious with offers to help from unauthorized companies or people. Homeowners are urged not to provide financial or personal information unless they verify the company or person’s licensing status. It does not cost anything to apply for the HAF program or meet with an Oregon housing counselor. 

There are a number of common warning signs

EditSign

EditSignEditSign homeowners should watch out for that may indicate a scam. If a homeowner suspects they’re being contacted by a scammer, they can report it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Oregon Department of Justice, or the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General

To verify a lender’s license, visit the Division of Financial Regulation’s license page and compare it with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) license number. This number must be included on all advertising materials and should be easy to find. To verify a housing counseling agency’s status with the state, make sure they are listed on the OHCS website.  

 

OSFM announces investment into Oregon firefighter apprenticeship program

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon State Fire Marshal has announced it is investing $3 million in the Oregon State Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Program over the next two years. Klamath County Fire District No. 1 and Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue will each receive $1.5 million dollars.

The Oregon fire service has seen a decrease in the number of career and volunteer firefighters entering the field. The goals of the apprenticeship program are to create an accessible pathway into a fire career and increase diversity and inclusion, ensuring the Oregon fire service represents the communities they serve.

The two agencies were selected to receive funding because of the increased risk of wildfire near their communities. Over the last few decades, these regions have experienced more wildfires that have increased the demand for firefighters. This investment will help to lessen that need and provide highly-trained personnel to stop fires before they have a chance to grow and impact communities.

“Apprenticeship attracts a wide range of people, bringing with them eagerness and enthusiasm, which will have a positive effect on the rest of our workforce,” Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue Chief Bob Palmer said. “Having the opportunity to sponsor a firefighter apprenticeship program is an effective strategy for helping our fire district meet the demand for skilled labor which has become a valuable and limited commodity.”

“The fire service recognizes that our greatest asset is our people, and we are committed to building, developing, and nurturing the skills of these new apprentices while unlocking their full potential and preparing them for long and healthy careers,” Klamath County Fire District No. 1 Chief Greg Davis said. “Through targeted training initiatives, mentorship programs, coaching, and career progression opportunities, we aim to create a dynamic and engaged workforce that is equipped and capable to tackle any challenge the fire service is faced with.”

This program provides 4,000 hours of training over two years. Apprentices learn the skills of basic emergency medical technician (EMT), applicable college-level math and writing coursework, and on-the-job training. During the program, apprentices also increase staffing at local fire agencies.

The apprentice program is approved by the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and adheres to strict guidelines for inclusion and training requirements.

Funding for this program was made possible through Senate Bill 762, which was signed into law in 2021. This investment is part of a multi-pronged approach Oregon is taking to strategically invest in responding to and preventing wildfires. Learn more about the OSFM’s wildfire investments here.

Additional Information – Oregon State Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Program
Investments for Oregon: OSFM Grants

 

To apply go to:
For more information email: JCSOadmin@jacksoncounty.org

 

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