Willamette Valley News, Friday 1/14 – DEQ Orders Urgent Soil Removal At Homes Near Baxter Plant, Eugene Police Make A Public Appeal For Information On A Suspect In Recent Street Robberies

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Friday, January 14, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Dense Fog Advisory in effect from January 14, 02:29 AM PST until January 14, 12:00 PM PST

Today– Patchy drizzle before 10am. Areas of dense fog before noon. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 50. Light and variable wind.

Saturday– Areas of fog before 11am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday– Patchy fog before 11am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 48. Light north wind.

Monday: M.L.King Day– Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 49.

Tuesday– Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.

DEQ Orders Urgent Soil Removal At Homes Near Baxter Plant In Eugene

Several residential properties near the J.H. Baxter & Co. plant in west Eugene urgently need contaminated soil to be removed, the Department of Environmental Quality announced on Thursday.

Yard soil samples were collected last fall as part of an ongoing investigation into dioxin contamination near the facility south of Roosevelt Boulevard. Depending on the level of exposure, DEQ officials said dioxins can increase the risk of cancer and other health effects.

Of the seven properties that were tested, three need cleanup as soon as possible, another three need cleanup to reduce long-term health risks, and one property does not require cleanup, according to the DEQ report.

Residents were informed of the findings and advised on the next steps.

A second phase of soil sampling is expected to take place soon that will help determine the extent of the contamination around the initial seven properties.

Soil samples were collected from other sites away from the facility to provide background data, and elevated levels of dioxins were found at Trainsong Park in west Eugene. DEQ officials said they’re not sure what the source of the contamination is, but it doesn’t appear to be related to the plant. Officials are working to determine the next steps.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, a family with young children would have to visit the park four days a week for an entire year before there would be any risk of health effects. Children under the age of 3 would be at greatest risk.

The Baxter plant has been under investigation since 2020 due to elevated levels of toxic chemical compounds. For more information, CLICK HERE.

The facility treats various wood products such as railroad ties, electrical service poles, and cross arms with water and oil-based chemicals. The facility has operated at the location since the early 1940s. Learn more about LRAPA’s regulation of J.H. Baxter & Co. by viewing their current air permit below.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) also has a webpage specific to J.H. Baxter. View the page by clicking here.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) also has a webpage specific to J.H. Baxter. View the page by clicking here.


Eugene Police Make A Public Appeal For Information On A Suspect In Recent Street Robberies

Eugene Police made a public appeal for information on a suspect in two recent street robberies, including an armed robbery in which a female suspect fired a shot as the suspect pursued her vehicle.

Officers say the woman “may have committed additional similar armed robberies recently. Police would like to encourage victims to come forward, regardless of the circumstance.”

Police released the suspect’s mugshot. A new Oregon law limits the release of booking photos but allows police to distribute the images to the media to assist in ongoing investigations.

Investigators took Cylie Laylani Hepton, 29, into custody Tuesday night along with 25-year-old Christopher Tyler Lundy with the help of a SWAT team.

Both suspects were booked for investigation of Robbery in the First Degree, along with open warrants.

The investigation started late Monday night. A 30-year-old Eugene man told police he was robbed after going to Skinners Butte to meet a woman.

“The man reported he arrived and a woman got into his truck and demanded money, then robbed him at gunpoint. She fled in a sedan driven by a man,” police said. “The victim did not know either person and he followed the sedan in his truck from Skinners Butte Park to north bound Delta Highway. The woman fired a gun at the truck near the intersection of Delta Highway and the Valley River Drive bridge.”

Police said “the victim was able to find the female suspect online and provided a photo. A license plate for the sedan was also found.”

That led investigators to identify Hepton as one of their suspects.

The next day, another robbery took place in the Costco parking lot in Eugene.

“A suspect tried to steal a customer’s purse out of her vehicle while she was putting her shopping cart away and juggling a toddler,” police said.

When the 31-year-old victim, holding a child, jumped behind the suspect’s vehicle to block them in, the car backed into her.

Another woman stood in front of the vehicle, “allowing the victim to grab her purse back from a woman sitting the passenger side of the suspect’s vehicle,” police said. “The vehicle was the same one as involved in the Skinner’s Butte incident. As the vehicle was fleeing, the victim took photos of the suspect vehicle and occupants.”

Officers took Hepton and Lundy into custody that night. Hepton had a hangun in her waistband at the time, police said.

“Police are seeking additional witness who may have observed the incident which occurred at Costco, particularly any cell phone video which may have been taken. Additionally, police have reason to believe Hepton may have committed additional similar armed robberies recently,” Eugene Police said.

“Police would like to encourage victims to come forward, regardless of the circumstance which led to meeting Hepton and are including Hepton’s mugshot for this purpose. Please contact Detective Trotter at 541-682-5168 if you have any additional information or if you were a victim of Hepton.”

Power Restored After Thousands Lose Power in Outage Along Hwy 58

Thousands were without power in communities along Highway 58 Thursday afternoon.

As of now, power is back on throughout Pleasant Hill, Dexter, Jasper, Lowell and Fall Creek.

About 1,500 Lane Electric customers were affected, as well as 2,700 with the Emerald People’s Utility District.

Oregon reports 9,796 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 25 new deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. — There are 25 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,870, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

OHA reported 9,796 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 504,731.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (28), Benton (325), Clackamas (875), Clatsop (97), Columbia (97), Coos (130), Crook (73), Curry (22), Deschutes (671), Douglas (233), Gilliam (1), Grant (11), Harney (6), Hood River (27), Jackson (505), Jefferson (113), Josephine (125), Klamath (122), Lake (1), Lane (686), Lincoln (85), Linn (307), Malheur (46), Marion (862), Morrow (54), Multnomah (1,877), Polk (220), Sherman (1), Tillamook (39), Umatilla (267), Union (31), Wallowa (15), Wasco (79), Washington (1,512) and Yamhill (253).

Press conference highlights state efforts to address testing, hospital staffing and vaccinations

At today’s press conference, OHA Director Patrick Allen provided an update on the state’s efforts to support hospitals and distribute 6 million test kits to Oregon communities and how mass vaccination sites are providing vaccinations and boosters. Kathleen George, Council Member for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, highlighted the outdoor drive-through clinic opening at  Spirit Mountain Casino Jan. 15. ​Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) Director Fariborz Pakseresht described ODHS’s ongoing efforts to support facilities and homes licensed by ODHS and in-home care providers. Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill gave an update on the impact of the Omicron surge on Oregon’s schools.

A broadcast of the press conference can be found here. Talking points for today’s event can be found here. Find footage here of test kits being sent from the OHA warehouse in Wilsonville on Wednesday.

OHA releases new COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough report

Oregon Health Authority’s most recent update on COVID-19 breakthrough cases, released today, reported 45,334 cases of COVID-19 during the week of Jan. 2 to Jan. 8.

Of those cases, 33,363 or 73.6% were unvaccinated people and 11,971 or 26.4% were vaccine breakthrough cases.

The average age of the breakthrough cases during that period was 36. Forty-five breakthrough cases involved residents of care facilities, senior living communities or other congregate care settings. There were 985 cases in people aged 12 to 17.

To date, there have been 72,683 COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases in Oregon. The average age of all cases is 44. Breakthrough cases have been reported in all 36 counties.

Cases of COVID-19 are far more common in unvaccinated people. The report shows that the rate of COVID-19 in unvaccinated people is more than five times higher than in vaccinated people.

To date, 3.5% of all vaccine breakthrough cases have been hospitalized and 1% have died. The average age of vaccinated people who have died is 81.

Vaccination remains the most effective tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Oregonians are encouraged to get vaccinated and, if eligible, to get a booster shot. The latest breakthrough report can be found here.   

Oregon Attorney General Warns Of Fake COVID Testing Sites And Overpriced Testing Kits

Amid rocketing COVID-19 cases brought on by the Omicron variant, Oregon authorities are warning people to beware of sketchy COVID testing sites.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says this “unapproved product is sold with fraudulent claims to prevent, treat, mitigate, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. FDA warns consumers to avoid unproven and potentially unsafe products.”

The Oregon Attorney General’s Office issued the warning, saying bad actors and businesses will try to score a quick buck during desperate times.

Kristina Edmundson of the Oregon Department of Justice told KLCC that there are red flags to look for with pop-up testing sites that may not be the real deal.

“Be aware of any testing site asking for sensitive information that’s not your health insurance information,” said Edmundson. “So that would be a social security (or) a passport number, something really kind of ‘off’ in terms of asking for information like that.”

Edmundson says to look for testing sites that display logos of established organizations, or are listed in the Oregon Health Authority’s testing locator. She encourages anyone suspicious of a potentially fake COVID testing site to report them via the Oregon Department of Justice’s website or the Attorney General’s Consumer hotline.

Additionally, COVID-conscious consumers are being warned about inflated prices for at-home testing kits.

Edmundson says with cases surging from the Omicron variant, some people are selling kits at excessive mark-ups.

”I just did a quick search and I found tests in my local community here in Oregon that were going for $50 for one test that you might buy in a pharmacy,” she said. “And of course, on average, those tests are usually about $10.”

Individuals are selling testing kits online on Craig’s List, NextDoor, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace.

Edmundson says if you’re seeing overpriced testing kits online or at convenience stores, to contact the Oregon Attorney General’s Office.

Oregon officials add starting January 15th, private insurers are required to cover the cost of eight at-home tests a month for members.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also found fraudulent COVID-19 testing kits being sold on the internet, which claim to prevent, treat, mitigate, diagnose, and even cure COVID-19.

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State to reopen the portal for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program on January 26 for limited time

Nearly 34,000 Oregon households have received more than $235 million rental assistance relief due to hardship from pandemic 

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) will begin accepting new applications again for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) starting on Wed., Jan. 26, 2022. The state paused accepting new applications in early December due to dwindling funding and the need to make system improvements. This will be a limited reopening for three to five weeks, depending on availability of funds. The agency estimates to have sufficient funding to pay between 6,700-9,300 additional applications. Households with the most need will have priority in accessing these resources, not a first-come, first-served basis. 

As directed by the Oregon State Legislature in SB 891 (Second Special Session of 2021), OHCS is first processing applications received before the Dec. 1 pause. Applications received on Jan. 26 will be processed after applications received before Dec. 1. Tenants who apply on Jan. 26 or after may receive safe harbor protections that prevent landlords from evicting tenants until their application is processed. However, those tenants should expect a delay prior to processing and payment. 

Other rental assistance is available in many localities in Oregon through local programs that are operating independently from OERAP. Tenants applying for these programs will likely qualify for the safe harbor eviction protections. People can contact 211 or Community Action Agencies in their area.

As of Jan. 12, OHCS and local program administrators (LPAs) have paid $235.4 million in federal emergency rental assistance to 33,770 households, up from $222.4 million and 31,816 applicants last week, through OERAP. 

OERAP continues to be one of the nation’s top-performing programs and is ranked sixth in the nation, in the percentage of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds paid out and obligated, as tracked by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Information for renters who apply on or after Jan. 26 when the portal reopens

  • Tenants who apply on Jan. 26 or after can receive safe harbor eviction protections that prevent landlords from evicting tenants until their application is processed. Tenants must show proof to their landlord that they applied for the program to receive the protections. Tenant applications will be paid based on remaining funding available and are not guaranteed.
  • Applications still awaiting landlord/tenant response at the time of closure are subject to funds remaining when application is finalized and approved, and prioritization scoring is applied and are not guaranteed for payment.
  • Tenants at immediate risk of eviction should apply for rental assistance right away to access safe harbor protections and should contact a legal organization. 
  • Tenants should expect a delay prior to processing and payment but can count on accessing their safe harbor eviction protections immediately. 

Progress and updated numbers  

Through its three-point plan, OHCS and its processing partner, Public Partnerships LLC (PPL), have made significant strides in the past several weeks to speed up application processing. Currently, 265 PPL staff are focusing on processing applications. In the past week alone, PPL paid 2,176 applications.  This is in addition to the applications processed by LPAs working across the state to finish paying out ERA 1 funds. 

To date, OHCS and LPAs: 

  • Paid $235,428,790 to landlords and tenants to help 33,770 Oregon households, close to 81% of ERA 1 and 2 funds. 
  • Currently reviewing for payment 7,905 applications.
  • Need applicant or landlord response for 6,223 applications.

Visit the OERAP dashboard for more data. 

Jan. 13, 2022 Oregon Employment Department Media Statement 

Economic Update

Today the Employment Department published the latest results from the Oregon Job Vacancy Survey. Oregon’s private employers reported 103,000 job vacancies between October and December 2021. While that’s a slight decline (-4%) from the record-high 107,000 job openings reported in summer 2021, employers are still actively recruiting for 88% more job openings than they were at the end of 2020.

Hiring demand between October and December 2021 was widespread across Oregon’s economy. Five different sectors had at least 10,000 job vacancies. They included health care and social assistance; construction; retail trade; leisure and hospitality; and manufacturing.

Employers were also reporting near-record difficulty filling vacancies. Three out of four job openings (76%) were identified as hard to fill in the fall. In both Oregon and the U.S., there are more job openings than there are unemployed people. For every seven unemployed workers, there are 10 job openings. There just aren’t enough workers for this near-record high number of job openings.

Oregon’s private health care sector reported even greater difficulty, with 9 out of 10 job openings (87%) identified by employers as hard to fill between October and December. Oregon’s health care sector has both the largest number of job openings (16,000), and the largest number of hard-to-fill vacancies (13,900) in the state. Personal care aides, nursing assistants, and registered nurses accounted for the majority (57%) of difficult-to-fill vacancies in health care.

More details about Oregon Job Vacancies are also available on QualityInfo.org, on the publications page under Job Vacancy Survey.

Hiring Healthcare Heroes Job Fair a Success

Nearly 150 employers from across Oregon met yesterday with approximately 300 job seekers during the statewide “Hiring Heroes for Healthcare” virtual and in-person job fair. The job fair was sponsored by the Oregon Employment Department and its WorkSource Oregon partners.

“It is rewarding to connect talented people with Oregon employers. We advertised this event to people working in California, Washington and Idaho, and we are encouraged with the out-of-state participation in our virtual hiring events,” said Adalberto Rubio, OED business service analyst.

The next statewide job fair will be in March 2022; however, local offices continue hosting smaller hiring events regularly. “We encourage people to check the events page at WorksourceOregon.org or WorkSource Oregon LinkedIn page,” Rubio said.

Department Issues Scam Alert

The Department has discovered that scammers are calling Oregonians pretending to be with the Employment Department. These scammers are masking their phone number so it looks like the call is coming from an OED phone number.

“The Oregon Employment Department will never ask you to provide your credit card information for you to receive benefits,” said Sara Cromwell, unemployment insurance division deputy director for benefits. “If you are unsure if the phone call is a scam, hang up. Then call us or fill out a Contact us form. We have short phone wait times now, and we are quickly responding to Contact Us inquiries.” 

2020 UI Fraud Report Issued

Paying unemployment benefits in a timely manner, while protecting the Oregon UI Trust Fund, is a core principle of the Oregon Employment Department. Fraudulent claims are an ongoing concern of the department and other UI programs throughout the nation. 

That concern was greatly heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis, due in part to the increased financial incentives for fraudsters. This week, OED is sharing the Unemployment Insurance Fraud – Calendar Year 2020 report.

“The good news is that Oregon has not seen losses on the scale of some other states,” said Lindsi Leahy, unemployment insurance division director. 

Fraud occurs when a person intentionally provides false or misleading information to obtain unemployment insurance benefits. During the time of skyrocketing pandemic related workloads, preventing fraud became an even greater challenge for the UI system nationally and in Oregon. 

Oregon’s low rate of pandemic era UI fraud compared to some other states is due to the dedication of OED employees who diligently worked to keep up on ever-changing trends in UI fraud and prevent it along with their vigilant efforts to protect Oregon’s UI Trust Fund. Leahy, the Department’s UI division director, serves on the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) Integrity Center steering committee, where fraud prevention is a top priority. 

“Fraud remains a significant threat to Oregon’s UI system, but we continue dedicating significant resources and efforts to combat it,” Leahy said. 

The figures in the report represent a snapshot in time. OED continues to receive tips and investigate other potential fraud for benefits paid in 2020. This means that report numbers will increase as more cases are confirmed. This data also does not reflect the many fraudulent or ID theft claims that the department caught before any benefits were paid.

During the height of the pandemic, OED declined to answer specific questions about fraud to prevent the disclosure of information that could be used by fraudsters to further scam the system. 

“Now that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has ended and work in the program is winding down, we can publicly share some information about fraud that occurred in calendar year 2020 without creating undue further risk,” Leahy said.

Department Sending 1099G Tax Forms

The Oregon Employment Department is sending more than 400,000 1099G tax forms to people who received unemployment insurance benefits in 2021. 

1099G is used for people filing federal and state income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Oregon Department of Revenue. 

People can expect to receive the 1099G form by Jan. 31, 2022. The form will be on the Online Claims System in February under the tab “1099G Tax forms” toward the bottom of the page.

Sara Cromwell, unemployment insurance division deputy director for benefits, urges people to inform the Employment Department if they receive a 1099G and did not claim benefits in 2021. “If you didn’t file a claim last year, this means someone may be trying to steal your ID. Please complete our online ID theft form or call 503-947-1995, so we can review the claim for possible fraud,” she said. 

More information on the 1099G form is at unemployment.oregon.gov. For more information on what to do if your identity has been stolen, visit the IRS website. — Oregon Employment Department

Oregon increases income limits for food and child care assistance

Need to know

  • Oregon has increased the income eligibility limit for food and child care assistance up to 200% of the federal poverty level 
  • Previous income limits were 185% of the federal poverty level
  • Approximately 18,000 additional households in Oregon may qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) under these new income guidelines
  • Approximately $25 million in additional food benefits will be issued to Oregonians annually
  • Find resources to meet your basic needs: Dial 2-1-1, or text your zip code to 898-211, www.211info.org 
  • Oregon Department of Human Services COVID-19 help center 

(Salem) – The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) has increased the income limits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program to 200% of the federal poverty level, or $2,147 a month for an individual or $3,660 for a family of three.

The previous income limit for these programs was 185% of the federal poverty level, or $1,986 a month for an individual or $3,386 for a family of three. 

This change took effect in Oregon on Jan. 1, 2022, and approximately 18,000 new households are expected to be eligible to enroll in SNAP. Approximately $25 million in additional food benefits will be issued to Oregonians annually. 

“Coming into the COVID-19 pandemic, life was difficult for many Oregonians, especially people of color, Oregon Tribal Nations, people with disabilities and older adults,” said ODHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht. “As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, we know that many are struggling to get enough healthy food for themselves and their families. This increase will provide critical food support to thousands of Oregonians.”

The ERDC program has two income limits to participate in the program, for when a family applies to participate in the program and when a family renews their participation in the program. The entry income limit to enroll in the program has increased to 200% of federal poverty level. Families can continue to participate in the program until their income is above 250% of the federal poverty level, or $5,303 a month for a family of three. 

“It’s encouraging to see child care prioritized with other critical benefits to support Oregon families,” said Oregon Early Learning System Director Alyssa Chatterjee. “This change will help more families access child care at a pivotal time – one that’s brought uncertainty and challenges.” 

Oregonians can apply for medical, food, cash, and child care assistance in one place online at ONE.Oregon.gov, over-the-phone at 800-699-9075​, or in-person at a local ​office.​ Due to COVID-19, Oregonians are encouraged to call ahead before their local ​office.

ODHS offers these tips to Oregonians to help them as they apply for benefits:

  • Before you begin an application, compile all documents you think you might need ahead of time. This can prevent your application from being held up and taking additional time. These documents could include: Identification, proof of income, social security numbers or other documents to determine eligibility for anyone in the household who is applying for benefits. 
  • If you have already submitted an online, in-person or over-the-phone application, you do not need to reapply. ODHS has your application and will process it as quickly as possible. 
  • If you applied through the ONE online application, you can track your application’s status using the same system you used to apply. Log in to one.oregon.gov to start tracking. Note: This website is accessible on computers, tablets and phones, but it is not optimized for mobile viewing. 
  • If you prefer to apply over the phone, the ONE Customer Service Center is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Currently hold times are lowest in the morning from 7 until 8 a.m.
  • If you are only applying for medical benefits, you can get free application help from an OHP-Certified Community Partner. Community Partners are trained and certified to help clients understand and use their health coverage options, including helping them complete eligibility and enrollment forms. Find a Community Partner at https://healthcare.oregon.gov/Pages/find-help.aspx 

Resources to help meet basic needs

About the Oregon Department of Human Services

The mission of the Oregon Department of Human Services is to help Oregonians in their own communities achieve wellbeing and independence through opportunities that protect, empower, respect choice and preserve dignity. Oregon Department of Human Services 

Oregon Students To Get Student Loan Debt Canceled And A Payment Due to Navient’s Deceptive Loan Practices

More than 5,000 Oregonians whose student loans were managed by Navient, one of the nation’s largest loan servicing companies, will receive part of a $1.85 billion settlement after it was found that the company participated in unfair and deceptive practices. 

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, announced the settlement Thursday, along with 38 other states attorneys general. 

In Oregon, 5,488 borrowers will receive nearly $1.5 million in restitution – about $260 per person – for federal loans serviced by Navient, and 864 will receive nearly $22.5 million in outright debt cancellation from private loan debts managed by Navient. That’s an average of more than $26,000 each. The money will be sent and debt canceled by July of 2022.

Loan servicers work with loan providers, and handle sending loan recipients their statements and helping them manage their loans. 

Those who qualify for restitution or cancellation don’t need to take action to get their share of the settlement as long as they have an online account with the Federal Student Aid office at studentaid.gov and it is updated to include a current address. 

The settlement comes after complaints dating to 2009 that the company told borrowers it would advise them how to best repay their loans, but instead steered those struggling to make payments into long-term forbearances – essentially pausing their payments while they still accrued interest. They did this rather than informing student borrowers about more affordable repayment plans to reduce their monthly payments and didn’t tell them about subsidies to help pay loan interest, according to a statement from the 39 state attorneys general.

Navient also neglected to steer qualifying borrowers into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for borrowers working in public service.

The states’ attorneys general also alleged that Navient targeted its subprime private loans at students attending for-profit schools with low graduation rates. They did this despite knowing many of these borrowers would be unable to pay them back.  

“For over a decade, Navient promised student loan borrowers it would help them find the best repayment options. Instead, they steered struggling borrowers into more costly payment plans. Today we’re getting some of that money back and putting it into the hands of Oregonians who’ve been harmed,” Rosenblum said in a statement.

Rosenblum championed a Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights passed by the 2021 Legislature, that created a student loan ombudsperson to counsel borrowers, and require that student loan servicers be licensed with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. The agency is also charged with helping to regulate student loan servicers who work with Oregon borrowers.

Announcing the second round of relief funding for artists: Artist Resilience Program to provide $1.5 million for Oregon artists  

Salem, Oregon – The application is now live for the Artist Resilience Program, a second round of relief funding for Oregon artists offered by the Oregon Arts Commission in partnership with the Oregon Community Foundation and the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. The partnership, which began with 2020’s Artist Relief Program, invests another $1.5 million in support for artists’ recovery from the pandemic. 

Awards will generally range from $1,000 to $5,000 and will be determined by a peer review panel. A geographic distribution model will ensure that applicants from across Oregon are supported. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10.

“We are incredibly grateful to Oregon Community Foundation and the Miller Foundation for their dedication to helping us sustain our artists through these difficult times,” said Brian Rogers, executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission. “In reaching Oregon’s artists, we know we are not only supporting these individuals financially, but also enabling them to continue their creative careers and enliven the cultural environments of Oregon.” 

The purpose of the Artist Resilience Program is to provide relief funding to Oregon artists who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic due to cancellations of exhibitions, performances, rehearsals or other activities with a stipend, events, teaching opportunities, book signings or other professional presentation opportunities. Guidelines are now posted on the Arts Commission website.

“In times of crisis, artists help us make sense of our world and stay connected to one another,” said Martha Richards, executive director of the Miller Foundation. “The Miller Foundation stands with Oregon artists in this difficult time because we recognize the critical roles they play in our communities and our lives – they are the foundation of our state’s arts ecosystem.”

“Oregon Community Foundation is thrilled to be a partner in this second wave of support for artists,” added Jerry Tischleder, Oregon Community Foundation’s program officer for arts and culture. “We recognize that independent and freelance artists are vital to the recovery of our communities, bringing hope and inspiration to the world while using their creativity to help process the collective trauma, grief and loss we’ve all experienced in these unprecedented times.” 

The program supports professional artists from specific disciplines who have experienced or anticipate experiencing loss of revenue of $1,000 or more between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.

The artistic disciplines supported are: literature (creative non-fiction, fiction, play writing and poetry); dance (including choreography); music (composition and music performance); theatre and performance art; visual arts (crafts, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media and new media); design arts; folk & traditional arts; and media arts.

Artists from underserved communities, including (but not limited to) rural communities and communities of color, as well as artists with disabilities, are especially encouraged to apply.

The Oregon Arts Commission provides leadership, funding and arts programs through its grants, special initiatives and services. Nine commissioners, appointed by the Governor, determine arts needs and establish policies for public support of the arts. The Arts Commission became part of Business Oregon (formerly Oregon Economic and Community Development Department) in 1993, in recognition of the expanding role the arts play in the broader social, economic and educational arenas of Oregon communities. In 2003, the Oregon legislature moved the operations of the Oregon Cultural Trust to the Arts Commission, streamlining operations and making use of the Commission’s expertise in grantmaking, arts and cultural information and community cultural development. 

The Arts Commission is supported with general funds appropriated by the Oregon legislature and with federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust. More information about the Oregon Arts Commission is available online at: www.oregonartscommission.org.

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A 17-year-old was reported missing in Salem and detectives say the teen might be the victim of an online catfishing scheme.

Ezra Mayhugh, 17, was last seen on October 15, 2021 after being dropped off in downtown Salem by a friend, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. He was reported as a runaway the following day when he did not return home.

Investigators say he might be in Washington or California. They hope to reunite Ezra safely with family members.

He’s described as about 5-foot 11-inches tall, weighing 130 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes.

If you have had contact with Mayhugh since October 15 or have other helpful information on his whereabouts, the sheriff’s office asks you to contact Detective M.J. Sphoon at 503-588-6808 or to submit a tip by texting TIPMCSO and your tip to 847411.


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