Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Holidays at the Capitol returns Wednesday

November 30, 2021 at 4:54pm

Two injured in rollover crash on Liberty Street

(Salem Fire Department/Facebook)

Salem fire and police responded Tuesday afternoon to a rollover crash on Liberty Street.

Two people were treated for injuries and at least one was transported to a hospital, said Greg Walsh, emergency manager for the city of Salem.

The crash was first reported at 12:11 p.m., and Salem Police Department officers closed the road temporarily while Salem Fire Department personnel pulled out the trapped patients and cars. Walsh said the scene was cleared at 1:24 p.m.

"Fortunately our crews train on this equipment regularly and (were) able to make short work of this complex event," the fire department wrote in a Facebook post.

(Salem Fire Department/Facebook)

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

November 30, 2021 at 2:39pm

Gov. Brown to call special session, proposes extending eviction protections and more rent assistance

Gov. Kate Brown listens in during a phone call on Monday, April 20, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that she will call a special session of the state Legislature Dec. 13 to address ways to prevent evictions of renters.

Brown proposed extending eviction "safe harbor" protections for anyone who has applied for rental assistance, making sure landlords are paid fully for their owed rent, providing up to $90 million in additional rent assistance for low-income renters through the winter, and provide $100 million to transition to long-term, locally distributed eviction prevention services, according to a Tuesday news release.

“As we enter our coldest months, it is absolutely essential that we take action to ensure no additional Oregon families are evicted when rental assistance is on the way,” said Brown wrote in the news release. “I have spoken directly with Oregon renters in recent weeks about the pain and hardship their families have faced due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. We must take legislative action now to approve additional state funding for rental assistance, and to extend eviction protections for Oregonians who have applied for assistance."

Brown wrote that Oregon's federal funding for rental assistance will be nearly spent on Dec. 1, the same day that the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program will stop accepting applications for at least six weeks.

"I am continuing to work with federal officials at U.S. Treasury and the White House to secure additional federal emergency rental assistance funding for Oregon, but it is clear that a state solution is needed to address the urgent and immediate needs of Oregon renters," Brown wrote. "We must begin laying the groundwork now for the transition to local eviction prevention services after federal pandemic emergency programs draw to an end."

Oregon Housing and Community Services received $289 million in federal rental assistance funding to help tenants impacted by Covid.

OHCS, local nonprofits and service providers had paid out close to $150 million in federal emergency rental assistance to over 22,000 households as of last week, the news release said. OHCS and its partners have gotten more than 25,000 additional applications and are still reviewing and approving thousands each week. The agency calculated that all remaining federal rental assistance dollars will have been requested by Dec. 1.

“Governor Brown’s call is welcome news for the thousands of renting families and individuals who are living every day with the threat of eviction because the rent assistance they applied for has been delayed for months," reads a prepared statement from Stable Homes for Oregon Families, a tenant protections advocacy group. "We also appreciate all the state lawmakers who have been working together on a solution. Tenants are counting on the legislature to ensure no one loses their home while their applications are pending and also to provide additional funding to help keep people safe and stable during this time of ongoing economic upheaval.” 

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

November 30, 2021 at 2:09pm

SAIF will require Covid vaccines for all employees, including remote workers

SAIF Conference Center in downtown Salem (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Worker's compensation insurer SAIF will require all of its employees to be vaccinated against Covid by Jan. 10.

SAIF CEO Chip Terhune announced the policy in a memo to employees Monday, saying it would apply even to remote workers.

The state-chartered, not-for-profit company employs 1,077 people and is headquartered in Salem, making it one of the city's largest employers. It provides worker's compensation insurance for about 54,000 Oregon companies.

"While we will consider religious and medical exceptions to this policy, we will not make additional exceptions for those working remotely, nor offer weekly testing instead of vaccination," Terhune wrote.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has previously mandated most state workers, as well as school district and health care provider employees, be vaccinated against Covid or request medical or religious exception. A federal vaccination mandate issued by the Biden administration, which covers large private employers, is currently the subject of numerous lawsuits seeking to block implementation ahead of a Jan. 4 deadline.

Terhune told employees he wanted SAIF to lead by example by mandating vaccination.

SAIF employees have until Dec. 10 to submit proof of vaccination to the company or apply for an exception, the memo said. Employees who are not yet vaccinated have until Jan. 10 to get vaccinated or receive an exception.

"First and foremost, we are a safety and health company. We believe in the science and efficacy of the vaccines and agree with public health experts that it is the best tool available to help prevent severe cases of the disease or death. Data tell us that the unvaccinated pose a greater transmission risk. While testing can identify some presymptomatic and asymptomatic infections, it will not identify all cases," he wrote in the memo to employees. "In our vision to make Oregon the safest and healthiest state to work, we advocate for the vaccine and provide employers with information to help them encourage vaccination of their employees. That advocacy must begin with prioritizing our own employees’ safety and health."

-Rachel Alexander

November 30, 2021 at 1:44pm

Holiday decorations, musical exhibits on display at Capitol in December

(Courtesy/Oregon Legislature)

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Oregon Capitol is bringing the holiday spirit.

The annual tradition of Holidays at the Capitol starts Wednesday at 8 a.m. and will go through Dec. 23 at 5 p.m, according to the state legislature's website.

Decorations will be set up in the Rotunda and outside the House and Senate chambers. In the East Galleria, a new electronic exhibit will also share stories of past holiday experiences, messages from sponsors and performances recorded for this year from the Willamette Master Chorus, the Western Oregon University Chamber Chorus and Voices ensembles, and the Hermiston High School Chamber Choir. 

The Capitol is under construction to fix the building's seismic structure, temporarily limiting available entrances, exits and gathering spaces, said Stacy Nalley, public outreach coordinator for the Legislature.

This year's Holidays at the Capitol will not have live musical performances, a grand tree or a model train, Nalley said.

Decorations will include eight trees in the Rotunda, poinsettia plants circling the state seal with garland and lights, and two trees outside each chamber, Nalley said.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian