The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners took steps Thursday, Dec. 17 to once again extend the County’s emergency declaration in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the current surge in cases.
Board members unanimously approved a six-month extension of the state of emergency to July 2, 2021, enabling quick deployment of resources and responses to emerging and pressing community needs related to the pandemic. Extending the state of emergency also extends the County’s moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent.
Chair Deborah Kafoury declared an initial emergency March 11, 2020, one day after the first positive case of COVID-19 was announced in Multnomah County. It has now been extended four times to help meet pervasive, persistent community needs.
“Extending the state of emergency today is an acknowledgement of the reality that the health, safety and wellbeing of our entire community, and especially the most vulnerable, continue to be threatened by this virus,” Chair Kafoury said. “Multnomah County needs the tools afforded by the state of emergency to stay ready and to be able to respond to everything we face.”
The Chair cited the County's eviction moratorium — the first in the state — that has kept people in their homes despite widespread loss of income and the standing up of safe shelter for thousands of evacuees and people living outside fleeing the Oregon wildfires and toxic air, among others, as examples of how Multnomah County has responded quickly to emerging needs related to COVID-19 using the tools and authorities granted by the state of emergency.
Eviction Moratorium continues to protect county residents
The extension of the emergency declaration also extends the County’s moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent to July 2, 2021, as well as a six-month repayment period for back rent that follows the end of the moratorium.
This action gives renters in Multnomah County peace of mind they will not lose their homes because of nonpayment, even if the State of Oregon doesn’t extend its statewide eviction moratorium beyond its Dec. 31, 2020, expiration date. However, Gov. Kate Brown recently announced that the Oregon Legislature would convene Monday, Dec., 21, for a special session where lawmakers are widely expected to take action on an extension.
“We couldn’t afford to take any chances, and so Multnomah County renters can rest assured that at the very least, no matter what the State does or doesn’t do, they will be protected from eviction in the new year,” Chair Kafoury said.
The eviction moratorium and repayment grace period have been critical for the County to make the most use of the $12 million in rent relief dollars it has received through the CARES Act. The County has partnered with an established network of community-based social service providers — while also bringing in new agencies — to distribute rent relief to thousands of individuals and families who have been most affected by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet, even with measures being taken at every level of Multnomah County and state government, any pending crisis has the potential to devastate an already ailing community — particularly those most vulnerable to the pandemic.
“And while the great news about vaccines represents light at the end of the tunnel, we are in no way out of the woods,” Chair Kafoury said.
“Extending the emergency declaration today allows us to keep every tool we have to address these challenges and to prevent them from becoming calamities.”