Statement in Response to Governor Kate Brown’s COVID Restrictions

Democratic Socialists of America — Portland, Oregon

Starting today, Governor Kate Brown has ordered a two-week “freeze” on a wide range of social and commercial activities in order to slow the alarming spike in COVID-19 cases in Oregon. This rapid and deadly spread has hit working class people, communities of color, and immigrants hardest. While the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America supports the renewed restrictions imposed by the governor, we believe Oregonians deserve a far stronger response to this relentless disaster that has affected so many aspects of our lives.

A study by Families USA by the Lund Report in August showed that between February and May of this year, 50,000 Oregonians had lost their employment-based health insurance due to the COVID outbreak, swelling the ranks of uninsured Oregonians to 320,000, and this number has almost certainly grown since August. It is outrageous that in this so-called “progressive” state, in the wealthiest country on earth, so many of our fellow citizens lack access to healthcare in the face of a lethal pandemic. Health care should not be dependent on employment. The current disaster is one more example of why we need improved Medicare for All for every American. However, given the need for swift action to mitigate this crisis, we call on Governor Kate Brown to immediately expand the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) to cover every uninsured Oregonian.

In addition, Oregonians face an impending housing disaster. The CDC’s national eviction moratorium, set to expire at the end of December, is a crumbling levee barely holding back a flood. This means that renters and homeowners who have deferred payments under the moratorium will face impossible demands for current and back rent, and the threat of eviction from the potential of losing their homes in the dead of winter. Even if extended, the moratorium is only a temporary solution and will not forestall an eventual wave of evictions, damaged credit, and debt. Therefore, we call on the governor to ensure Oregonians’ rights to secure housing by forgiving missed rent and mortgage payments, including mortgages of small scale rental housing owners. Likewise, sweeps of houseless people’s encampments should be banned, and resources shifted to providing winter shelter, hygiene services, and PPE to the unhoused.

Finally, our frontline workers are facing exceptional risk at this time. With the dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases, the lives of our healthcare workers are threatened as our hospitals approach full capacity. It is critical that all workers are made aware of the latest OSHA COVID-19 workplace rules, and that these rules are strictly enforced so that employers prioritize workplace safety. Workers deserve to know if they’ve been exposed in the workplace and how their employers plan to respond.

We call on Governor Brown to fight like never before for Oregonians and our right to health care, housing, and safe working conditions, which must be prioritized over the wishes of insurance companies, landlords, and other private interests. If ever there were a time to place people over profit, this is that moment. The governor has direct emergency powers as well as the ability to rally lawmakers and free up resources to meet our needs at this critical time, but if she doesn’t step up to fight for the people, we will be forced to fight for ourselves.

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