National dispatch: Five airtankers join Oregon fleet, Oregon is granted coronavirus disaster declaration by feds

United States Capitol. Photo: Chas Hundley

Coronavirus resources: CDC on the coronavirusOregon Health Authority resourcesWashington County resourcesOregonian reporting on the coronavirusOPB glossary of coronavirus termsNYTimes free reporting on the coronavirus

Feds grant Oregon disaster declaration

The White House issued a disaster declaration in the state of Oregon on March 29, retroactive to January 20, after a March 27 request from Governor Kate Brown. 

“This declaration is an important first step towards unlocking all available federal resources for Oregon’s state, tribal, and local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I appreciate the responsiveness of Vice President Pence and federal administration officials to our requests for aid,” said Brown. 

Brown went on to note that the state had a number of pending requests sitting with the federal government, including requests for additional personal protective equipment and individual assistance for all Oregon counties and federally recognized tribes in the areas of child care, crisis counseling, disaster case management, legal services, and disaster unemployment assistance. 

“This is an unprecedented public health crisis that demands a coordinated national response, backed by the full resources of the federal government. I will continue to work with the White House and Oregon’s congressional delegation to fight for access to every tool available to keep Oregonians safe from COVID-19.”

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The declaration unlocks FEMA funding to reimburse a number of emergency actions taken by state and local governments and some nonprofit organizations in response to the coronavirus health crisis, according to Brown’s office. 

Merkley launches two coronavirus resource pages for general help and small businesses

With local, state and federal programs rapidly passed to combat the public health crisis and the economic fallout, it can be difficult to access resources and help for families and small businesses. 

In response, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has created two websites to answer questions and provide resources for Oregonians, one for general coronavirus resources, and one for small businesses

“Oregon’s small businesses have long been the lifeblood of our economy, and I’m going to keep fighting for them—and the families they support—as we get through these tumultuous times,” said Merkley when announcing the resource page for small businesses. “That means I’ve been pushing not only to free up resources for our businesses, but also to make sure those opportunities are easily accessible. This webpage is a critical tool that will help businesses across Oregon familiarize themselves with assistance options, so they can get the help they need and deserve.”

Congress passed a sweeping stimulus package – where’s my check?

With the news that most American taxpayers will get a $1200 check from the federal government, there are a lot of questions surrounding the topic. 

The New York Times has created an FAQ page to try to address those questions; you might need an account, but the article is totally free here

It’s never too early to start talking about fire season

In some non-COVID-19 news, it:s never too early to start thinking about the next set of natural disasters. In this case, wildfires. 

Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced that the U.S. Forest Service is bringing on five additional airtankers to combat wildfires in Oregon when they are needed. 

With these new airtankers, the agency’s fleet is now up to 18 total airtankers that are tapped exclusively for use by the U.S. Forest Service for the next year, with an option to renew four more times. 

With a series of tankers available to be shared with other agencies, the agency could have a total of 35 tankers this year available. 

Two companies in Oregon and one in Washington netted the contracts for the five additional tankers, including Hillsboro-based Aero Air.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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