How OEC Is Supporting Communities During COVID-19
Oregon Environmental Council stands with communities throughout Oregon, the nation, and the globe in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to using our advocacy to do our part to limit impacts on more vulnerable populations.
As an organization, we are telecommuting and using best practices for social distancing to help “flatten the curve.” We’re also checking in with one another at least twice a week to remain connected to one another.
Staff is also sharing information on how to support communities and taking action ranging from buying gift cards and takeout from local businesses to help keep them afloat in the near-term, fostering shelter animals, signing up for a blood drive appointment, and checking in with on-the-ground community groups organizing support actions. And staff has readily offered assistance (grocery runs, childcare, etc.) to one another if anyone gets sick, as well as doing shopping and errands for vulnerable and elderly community members we know.
OEC’s strength and skill as an advocacy organization can and should be put to use during this difficult time. Throughout our history, we’ve advocated for programs that invest in the health and well-being of our communities. That is needed now more than ever.
As of March 31, here are the actions we’ve taken:
- Staff circulated a call to donate/sell old laptops to Free Geek (an organization one of our former Emerging Leaders Board members is a part of). Free Geek is a nonprofit that is helping to supply technology to people who have to work from home or help kids with remote learning.
- We signed on to defend the Portland Clean Energy Fund from a business proposal to exempt corporations from paying into the fund. The coronavirus and climate are twin crises for the City’s most vulnerable populations and PCEF will help build near- and long-term economic and health resiliency.
- Our Environmental Health Program developed and dispersed user-friendly materials on non-toxic ways to disinfect homes and businesses. This helps our communities minimize the negative health effects of toxic chemical disinfecting ingredients.
- Signed onto a letter asking the legislature for $30M in additional resources for low-income energy assistance programs. We joined the Community Action Partners of Oregon, utilities, Verde, Citizens’ Utility Board, Latino Network, Community Energy Project, and Union of Concerned Scientists.
- Joined a large coalition letter asking the Legislature to pass a package with housing support; increased access to food, transportation, and healthcare; improve support for incarcerated individuals; ensure safeguards for Black and Indigenous People of Color, immigrant and refugee communities; and improve worker protections and safety nets.
- Reached out to legislators to ensure state rule-makings and proceedings that protect health and the environment are not halted.
- Joined NRDC in advocating to the Governor’s Office for a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs and late fees for nonpayment, proactive water reconnections for households that had been shutoff previously, and support for extended repayment plans
- Signed onto a letter asking for immediate financial assistance to transit services nation-wide. Transit ridership has plummeted over the last month, hitting agency budgets hard. The recession will show up again in many agency’s budgets soon as payroll taxes drop. We cannot afford to cut service or raise fares. Public transit is an essential service for many people, including many who are currently holding our communities together, like nurses and grocery workers. By reducing individual car trips, transit also reduces air and climate pollution and reduces congestion, and is critical for a sustainable and equitable transportation system.
- Signed onto a letter supporting a Human Right to Water bill championed by US Representative from Michigan, Rep. Tlaib, to prevent water shutoffs during COVID-19 and ensure water affordability protections for low-wealth households. These are key environmental justice issues in Oregon as well as nationwide, and the more we are able to meet the basic water needs of Oregonians, the more people are able to address other environmental priorities for their communities.
- Signed onto a letter requesting an extension of the comment period on the EPA’s Censored Science Rule. In the midst of a pandemic, the Trump Administration continues to push its agenda to stifle scientists and experts, and to skirt processes designed to protect transparency and public participation in rulemakings. Such actions warrant watch-dogging and advocacy to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to allow for the full attention and participation of scientists and health professionals.
- Supported Senator Merkely’s federal bill to support water availability, prevent shutoffs, and maintain affordability.
- Signed onto a letter advocating for the next stimulus package to include assistance for municipal, nonprofit and rural water and wastewater providers to cover the cost of low-income bill assistance, service restorations, shutoffs moratoriums, and household water bill debt forgiveness, as well as federal funding for public water providers to improve infrastructure and make service more affordable.