Help is out there.
Wondering about your rights as a tenant? Short on food or supplies for your littles? Need a safe (virtual) space to talk through your pandemic worries? We’ve rounded up some essential information as well as a list of free local, regional and national resources for Portland parents feeling the strain of COVID-19.
Editor’s Note: As you’ve no doubt observed, things are changing fast; check back in with pdxparent.com — plus city, county and state entities — on the regular for the most up-to-date information.
Eviction Holds and Tenants’ Rights
Covering the cost of next month’s rent is a very real concern for many Portland families right now, and in response, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has issued a temporary ban on residential evictions for non-payment of rent.
The ban, effective for 90 days, prevents landlords from taking legal action against tenants who do not pay rent, and Gov. Brown has given local governments the authority to enforce it. In short: you cannot be legally removed from your home at this time.
Previously, Multnomah County, the City of Portland and the City of Beaverton had all enacted their own temporary bans on evictions for non-payment of rent, utilities or other fees resulting from lost income associated with COVID-19.
These moratoriums were to include a six-month grace period to pay back rent, beginning after the emergency ends, without late fees, but required tenants to inform their landlords in writing before rent was due that they wouldn’t be able to pay and required documentation proving that the hardship was a result of COVID-19.
However, a sweeping statewide moratorium was announced March 22 in response to widespread public calls for stronger and more streamlined tenant protections.
It is not yet clear whether the previously announced city and county moratoriums could kick in after 90 days if Gov. Brown’s moratorium is permitted to lapse.
Pro tip: Even if your Multnomah County eviction is already in process, sit tight: the county has postponed all eviction hearings through at least April 30, even for those who have received court papers. You cannot be removed from your home at this time.
Got questions? Want to track shifting eviction policies or join the chorus for expanded tenant protections? Visit Portland Tenants United to access a wealth of resources for renters: pdxtu.org.
Utilities and the Internet
The Federal Communications Commission has obtained guarantees from many major broadband providers that they will not shut off internet services due to non-payment, at least for the next 60 days. To see if your provider has signed the pledge, visit fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected.
Disconnection of services for non-payment has also been suspended by Northwest Natural, Pacific Power, Portland General Electric, Portland Water Bureau and the City of Portland.
Support for Those Experiencing Homelessness
In order to help Portlanders experiencing homelessness safely practice social distancing, and, if necessary, full quarantine, the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services has expanded its sheltering capacity and is also handing out additional hotel and motel vouchers. The Oregon Convention Center will function as a temporary shelter for 140 people, while the Charles Jordan Community Center will offer 400 temporary beds, but it is unclear how prepared these temporary shelters are to house families with young children. For details and to get on the Homeless Family System of Care waitlist, call 2-1-1 (or 503-222-5555 from a landline), but be forewarned: the waitlist is already bulging.
Unemployment Insurance: Who’s Eligible?
Oregon.gov remains your central access point for applying for unemployment insurance if you find yourself out of work through no fault of your own, but the standard rules for eligibility have shifted and will likely continue to evolve in the coming weeks.
It’s a bit complex, and your best bet is to review the extensive list of guidelines at oregon.gov/employ/Pages/COVID-19.aspx, but a few general rules apply:
- If your workplace temporarily closes because of coronavirus, but you remain able and available to work when called back and are in contact with your employer, you are eligible to apply.
- If you aren’t in contact with your employer, you must be preparing to return to new work or find new employment to be eligible to apply.
- If you are quarantined, whether ill or not, you are considered able to work and can apply, but if you are hospitalized, your claim will require additional review.
Pro tip: If your employer remains open, but you opt to stay home due to fear of exposure, you may still be eligible and should also file a claim.
Food and Essential Supplies
Already running low on the essentials? These organizations — both relying on a model of mutual aid in which community members directly assist each other — are here to help.
The PDX Covid-19 Mutual Aid Network is delivering groceries and essential supplies to community members in need. For real-time updates or to get in touch, follow them on Instagram: @pdxcovid19mutualaid. (The organization relies on volunteers and community donations in the form of money and supplies; if you don’t need help yourself and are able, donate to their GoFundMe at gofundme.com/f/pdx-covid19-mutual-aid-network-fundraiser.)
Pandemic of Love partners families and individuals in need with families and individuals able to offer assistance with things like groceries, gas and utility bills. To fill out a confidential assistance request, visit: pandemicoflove.com.
Pro tip: Unsurprisingly, many organizations like these are inundated and are experiencing lag times in delivery of assistance, so try to get in touch early if you anticipate needing help going forward.
Mental Health Help
In the time of COVID-19, many therapists and counselors are offering virtual services, but if paying out of pocket for a private therapy session isn’t realistic for you right now, you can still access help.
Reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 and talk with a trained crisis counselor. Or access a free therapist-led Facebook support group organized by TalkSpace at: facebook.com/groups/1570599106420510/.
Also Good to Know
- If you find yourself in need — or if you have assistance to offer — don’t forget to think hyper-locally! Most Portland neighborhoods are mobilizing their own mini-networks of moral and practical support. Plug in to these neighbor-to-neighbor resources here: nextdoor.com and buynothingproject.org.
- Don’t forget to dial 2-1-1 to access 211info, Multnomah County’s service portal for a host of social and health service resources.
- The Oregon Health Authority — our state’s lead authority for public health responses — offers straightforward daily updates on COVID-19 developments at govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19. You can also sign up to receive a daily update right in your inbox.
- Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) and his team have assembled a monster list of local and regional resources pointing Portland families to everything from food, utility and rent assistance to help for small businesses and workers here: earlblumenauer.com/coronavirus/. Thanks, Earl!