PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is holding a press conference Tuesday morning to talk about housing security in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the country.
Joining Wheeler at the 9 a.m press conference will be Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Dr. Jennifer Vines, the lead health officer for the Tri-County region.
When Kafoury spoke, she quickly announced a moratorium on rental evictions across Multnomah County.
“Yes, everyone should pay their rent on time. But for people who are losing their wages due to COVID-19 and find themselves unable to pay rent, we want you to be able to stay in your home,” she said.
People will have 6 months to pay back what they owe, according to Kafoury.
For those already experiencing homelessness, Kafoury stated the city will begin working to open “hundreds” of new shelter beds.
“We will use public buildings and other open spaces made available,” she said. “Most of those beds will allow shelter residents to maintain social distancing guidelines. And the rest will allow us to shelter those with COVID-19 and receive the care that they need.”
To ensure no one gets turned away, Kafoury said she is prohibiting all motels and hotels to refuse occupancy to anyone from the city’s shelters who the city will pay for.
When Wheeler took the podium, he voiced his support for the moratorium on evictions.
“Nobody in this community is alone,” he said. “We’re all in this together. Everyone is being asked to sacrifice to get through this situation.”
Wheeler called on the Oregon State Legislature to also enact measures to protect residents across the state.
“This is just one step for keeping people stable in their homes,” he said.
Wheeler announced Prosper Portland has made $150,000 available in the form of grants to help businesses in the Jade District, one area that has been impacted the most in this crisis. He said he hopes this can expand for businesses in other areas of the city, as well.
Going forward, only employees designated critical are able to access city buildings to prevent the spread of possible infection. All employees who are able to telework are now required to do so. All City of Portland buildings are now closed to the public.
Wheeler said all City Council meetings will continue virtually and be made available to the public to view.
Dr. Vines spoke briefly, touching on the shortage of supplies including testing kits and protective equipment.
“The testing situation is a frustration for all of us. I want to be very clear there is no withholding of any supplies,” said Dr. Vines. “I’ve asked if we’ve tapped into federal reserves for tests and the answer is yes, we have made that request.”
There has been difficulty in getting more disposable gowns, masks and gloves for medial workers, said Vines. She said they have about a 2-week supply at the moment.
The pandemic has already caused deep distress. The severe restrictions on restaurants and bars in Oregon and around the country have already hurt many small businesses who have had to lay off employees — and are on the brink of closing for good.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.