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A chat with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley

Sen. Jeff Merkley
D-Oregon

It’s been five months since the coronavirus hit our communities. Throughout this crisis, I’ve been in regular contact with business owners and workers about the very real effects this pandemic is having on families across Oregon — and their stories of hardship and loss are heartbreaking. In some cases, entire sectors — like our ports, fisheries, and other maritime industries — have been pushed to the brink. They need support, and they need it now.

Critical funding and support authorized by Congress’ Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — including small business loans and grants, expanded unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, and assistance for state, local, and tribal governments — has been making a big difference to families, students, workers, and business owners in Oregon.

And now, over $25 million in CARES Act funding is making its way to thirteen organizations across Oregon, where funds will be used to offer loans to businesses to help them make it through this difficult chapter.

If you are a business owner interested in applying for one of these loans, you can contact the Oregon Business Development Department (Business Oregon), or a local business development organization near you (click here for a list of grant funding awardees) for updates on applications and terms. 

And while these grants will provide some much-needed support, much more needs to be done to weather this storm. I’m doing everything I can to fight for the help families and small businesses in Oregon need, by getting more money in their pockets, protecting them from losing vital services like electricity and water, and ensuring that the systems we need to transport goods in and out of our state receive essential support amid declining revenues.

I also teamed up with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to introduce the bipartisan Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act, legislation that would establish a first-of-its-kind comprehensive maritime emergency relief authority that could provide critical financial assistance to our ports. This funding is vital to ensuring that our ports can continue to play their integral role in supporting our businesses and communities by remaining reliable and functional during this crisis, or in the event of a future national emergency or natural disaster. I will continue to work to rally support for this bill in an attempt to get it across the finish line and signed into law.

In the meantime, I hope you will join me in doing all that we can to cut the rate of coronavirus transmission — like wearing a mask, staying home whenever possible, and making accommodations in life and business to allow for social distancing. Together, we can get through this crisis.

All my best,
Jeff Merkley

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