Local News That Matters

UPDATES: OHA says masks still needed in schools

16 days ago

Union representing homecare workers inks deal for raise, hazard pay with state

The state Department of Human Services (Courtesy/State of Oregon)

Thousands of homecare and personal support workers in Marion and Polk counties are getting a sizable bump in pay.

Service Employees International Union Local 503 reached a new contract with the state that will give homecare and personal support workers in the Department of Human Services' Office of Aging and People with Disabilities, as well as the Office of Developmental Disabilities Services, a 12.7% raise, according to a press release from SEIU Local 503.

That raises their pay rate to $17.77 over the next 15 months. Workers will see a 5.7% raise in January 2022 and a 6.7% raise in January 2023.

The union represents 2,400 homecare and personal support workers living in Salem, and 4,300 across Marion and Polk counties.

Under the new contract, those who worked during the pandemic will qualify for $2,000 hazard pay checks. Workers must have worked between March 2020 and April 2021 and have an active provider number as of Dec. 1, 2021, the date of the payment.

“This is a major investment in caregivers, seniors and people with disabilities,” Rebecca Sandoval, chair of the bargaining team and a homecare worker from Medford, wrote in the press release. “It’s about the money, yes, but more than that it’s about the respect we deserve for doing the jobs that are essential.” 

The contract will allow case managers to share health and safety issues with workers before they begin working with a consumer; improve the reporting process and require case managers to share the outcomes of reported issues with workers; and require the Oregon Home Care Commission to provide a monthly report of issues to SEIU 503, according to the press release.

Those who work on July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas will also be paid time and a half for the first eight hours they work starting in 2023.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

16 days ago

Warming shelter opens as rain continues to pour

As the rain continue to pour, a flood advisory remains in effect in northwest Oregon until 4 p.m. Friday.

Salem got more than an inch of rain on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency has issued a flood watch in effect through Friday night and warned streams and rivers in the region may flood and debris flows are possible in burn areas in the Santiam Canyon.

The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency is opening its warming center at Salem First Presbyterian Church Friday and Saturday because of the flooding.

Volunteers can sign up for shifts here.

As of Friday morning, the city has two sandbagging sites open where people can get sand: the West Salem Park & Ride in the 1400 block of Brush College Road Northwest, off Wallace Road Northwest; and the city's public works shop near the intersection of Southeast Oxford Road and Southeast 22nd Avenue. More information about sandbagging and a map of open sites is available on the city website.

-Saphara Harrell

16 days ago

Masks still needed in schools, OHA health advisors say

First grade student Leah Arreguin colors a worksheet during the first day of school at Liberty Elementary School on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregon students should continue to wear masks in classrooms, the state's top public health officials said in a November meeting.

A group of Oregon Health Authority senior health advisors decided unanimously to leave the state's school mask mandate in place in a Nov. 2 meeting, according to minutes of the meeting obtained by Salem Reporter.

The health authority on Sept. 3 adopted a temporary rule requiring masks in K-12 schools following an order from Gov. Kate Brown. The rule is in effect through Jan. 28, 2022, but the authority said it would review the rule monthly.

In response to a request from Salem Reporter, OHA shared minutes from two reviews of the rule held Oct. 4 and Nov. 2.

In the November meeting, the agency's advisors concluded "there is no single data point to determine when we no longer need masks" in schools, saying it would depend on hospitalization trends, disease spread in the community and vaccine eligibility and uptake. They cited continues high spread of Covid in nearly all Oregon counties, as well as continued high hospital bed occupancy.

The review was conducted by 14 of the agency's senior health advisors, including Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist.

-Rachel Alexander