Series of disaster relief measures approved by Senate

Press release from Senate Majority Office 2-21-08:

Series of disaster relief measures approved by Senate
Coastal delegation praises responsiveness to recent storms, commitment to preparedness

SALEM — Legislators passed a series of bills on the floor today that address disaster relief for Oregonians. Partly inspired by the devastating coastal storms of December 2007, HB 3605 and HB 3606 will give relief to Oregonians in a declared emergency. Additionally, HB 3608 clarifies the role of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest Emergency Arrangement.

“We saw devastation throughout my district this winter,” said Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappose), “This suite of bills will offer real relief to Oregonians who are adversely affected by declared natural disasters.”

HB 3605 is a direct response to the storms that ravaged the coast this winter. On December 7, 2007 the Department of Consumer and Business Services issued an emergency order that allowed insurance policy holders extra time to make their payments. Insurers were prohibited from cancelling policies during the immediate aftermath of the storm. This order gave citizens dealing with the crisis the time they needed to get their affairs in order without worrying about losing their insurance coverage. HB 3605 directs DCBS to adopt rules to establish criteria for such orders for future emergencies.

HB 3606 waives the one week waiting period for receiving unemployment benefits following a declared state of emergency by the Governor. This legislation will allow those struggling to rebuild their lives after a storm immediate support, when they need it most.

“Emergency preparedness is an ongoing process,” said Sen. Joanne Verger (D-District 5), co-chair of the 2007 Joint Committee on Ocean Policy and Emergency Preparedness. “The bills we passed today are important for increasing our readiness and I remain dedicated to Oregon’s preparation for natural disasters.”

Also today, the Senate passed HB 3608, which fleshes out Oregon’s involvement with the Pacific Northwest Emergency Arrangement, an international compact for mutual assistance amongst members. Those members include: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territories. While Oregon has been a member since 1997, HB 3608 clarifies the state’s involvement in the arrangement, providing greater coverage and protection.

“The legislation we passed today on emergency preparedness demonstrates our ability to respond quickly to emerging policy issues in Oregon,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin). “Our presence here in February allows us to act immediately on the concerns of Oregonians.”

Later today, the legislature’s budget committee is expected to vote on emergency recovery loans to local governments. “Additional work in the Ways and Means Committee will allow Oregon to match, and thereby maximize federal relief dollars available to Oregon after a declared natural disaster,” said Sen. Johnson.