By Rep. David Gomberg, House District 10
Dear neighbors and friends,
At the end of last week, I met Mike Fong, the new Pacific Northwest regional administrator for the Small Business Administration. He asked me to summarize our economic situation here at the Coast.
I told him that across Oregon and even here at the beach, we have recovered most of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Oregon regained 94% jobs lost since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Ministry of Employment. But we still have help wanted signs everywhere. Recruitment has been difficult – with 84% of employers reporting difficulty filling vacancies.
What does this mean?? More people are working and we still don’t have enough employees? One answer lies in what I have described as a seismic shift in our employment paradigms. Nearly one in three Oregonians reported a change in employment status during the pandemic, creating the “biggest workforce disruption since World War II”.
More and more people are working from home. Before the pandemic, only about 6% of the US workforce worked from home, according to US Census Bureau estimates. Now that number is 11%, according to the survey. People start new entrepreneurial ventures. People stay home to care for children because they can’t find or can’t afford child care. At the same time, we actually created more jobs.
The hospitality sector is the hardest hit, as it has the lowest average starting salaries, offers fewer full-time positions and tends to employ younger workers who have higher turnover rates. Restaurants are reducing opening hours. Hotels limit guests. Retail stores offer less help and therefore less customer service. And as a result, our small business owners are struggling to reach their full potential.
Another challenge affecting our potential – more and more employers are reporting that staff are not ‘fully competent’. Most said the main reasons were a lack professional and non-technical skills. More than 80% of employers surveyed say they have difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill their positions.
I told Director Fong that we continue to face housing and childcare issues. We’re building more workforce and affordable housing, but not as much as needed and it doesn’t happen overnight.
He talked about the dollars coming from the federal government to help solve Oregon’s problems. I said that too often these funds land proportionally in our population centers and our major cities, and not often enough in rural communities with disproportionate needs.
I thanked Mike for the meeting and appreciate the many business and local government leaders present who made similar comments.
Meeting with Mike Fong, director of the SBA Oregon/Washington/Idaho/Alaska
Friday I took part in a delicious banquet organized by the remarkable Newport Fisher Wives.
The occasion was the annual homeport dinner and to celebrate our local fishing industry and the people who work hard to make it more prosperous and resilient. Honored were:
- Heather Mann, Executive Director of Midwater Trawlers Cooperative
- Nancy Fitzpatrick, former executive director of the Oregon Salmon Commission and the Oregon Albacore Commission
- Hugh Link, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission
- Flaxen Conway, professor of sociology at OSU and extension specialist at Oregon Sea Grant
- Gino Law, for his work on the Dungeness Crab Commission, the Salmon Species Committee and 50 years as a local commercial fisherman
The Newport Fishermen’s Wives is a non-profit society of fishermen’s wives, mothers, daughters and friends, supporting a strong sense of community helping to advance the causes of industry, safety, seafood education and family support.
Here is some news that will not surprise you. Oregonians are paying more and more a greater share of their income for health care, the latest state report on health care costs shows. Oregonians saw an almost 50% increase in health care costs between 2013 and 2019. That’s an average of nearly 7% per year.
This is particularly significant news here in a neighborhood where 30% of the population is over 65.
According to the report, those on Medicare saw the largest health care increases — nearly 60% between 2013 and 2019 — while those on commercial plans saw a 45% increase. Medicaid, which is administered in Oregon by regional insurers called managed care organizations, had the smallest increases in those seven years, at just over 30%.
Health care costs are rising faster than wages and the economy, according to the report. He also noted that many people are struggling with out-of-pocket costs and have delayed care because of it.
Prescription pharmaceutical costs increased the most of all service categories. Drug costs rose 185% over the six-year period for Medicare patients to more than $2,200 per person, per year. Prescription drug costs rose 92.8% for those on commercial insurance and 79.4% for those on Medicaid.
Last year, the Oregon Legislature considered a proposal set upper limits on how much companies could charge for prescription drugs. Work will continue on this proposal. Lawmakers passed a bipartisan law to limit patient co-pay for insulin at $900 per year.
Two-thirds of people who declare bankruptcy cite medical problems as a key contributor to their financial downfall. Earlier this year, OSPIRG published a new report on medical bills and bankruptcy in Oregon. The report examines bankruptcy filings from 2019 and finds that 60% of filers reported medical debt. With a total of $30 million in medical debt reported in these documents, it’s clear we need to take action to reduce the cost of health care.
As I reported two weeks ago, the legislator introduced an amendment to the Oregon Constitution establishing a right to “cost-effective, clinically appropriate, and affordable health care” for every Oregon resident. The amendment would require the state to strike a balance between the obligation to guarantee the right to health care and the financing of public schools and other essential public services. Learn more here.
And finally, here’s some good news on healthcare spending. Departure Fridaythe three largest credit bureaus are review how medical debt affects your credit score and automatically remove a significant portion of the medical debt that afflicts the credit reports. Medical collection debts that you have already paid or that have been canceled should no longer appear on these reports. Essentially, if you have or have had medical debt, your score should improve.
And now something that might surprise you.
With the passage of House Bill 2574 last session, Oregon has now approved composting as an alternative to burial or cremation to process human remains. The technology allows a body to naturally decompose and turn into soil over a 30 day period. But there are no licensed human composting facilities in Oregon, and the state has yet to receive its first license application, according to the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board.
Human composting – or natural organic reduction – has grown in popularity as an environmentally friendly alternative mortuary care option because it emits less greenhouse gases than other burial methods. Washington became the first state to legalize the process.
More and more people are now choosing cremations over burials, according to the National Association of Funeral Directors. The Cremation Association of North America Annual statistics 2022 reports that Oregon’s cremation rate is 79.5%, making it the third highest in the nation after Nevada and Maine.
While some find cremation to be generally less harmful than pumping out a body full of formaldehyde and burying it with a metal or lacquered casket and concrete liner, it is fuel intensive and results in millions of tons of waste. carbon dioxide emissions per year.
With the passage of this new law, Oregonians can be turned into land after death. But until the process is actually offered here, your body will have to be shipped to neighboring Washington if you want to be composted.
Susie and I traveled the four corners of the old and new neighborhood Saturday.
We started in Tillamook and a small but much appreciated gathering of friends sharing their appreciation for my years of service in South County. Then we drove through Lincoln County to Florence to meet local organizers in the new HD 10. The road trip took us through wine country in Lane and Benton counties and we ended the day in Philomath with a wonderful downtown Sip and Stroll. The whole town was alive with locals and visitors walking and engaging the community, tasting wine and food at 28 different businesses on the main street. Thanks to Mayor Jones for being our guide and to the Philomath Chamber for putting on a great event.
Earlier today, MondayI was the radio guest on Hotline and a wide discussion of issues and topics affecting the coast.
Tuesday I will be attending the Oregon Coast Community College Foundation meeting and retreat. Later, I will offer remarks at the accreditation ceremony for the 60+ Activity Center in Newport.
Wednesday I will zoom in with the Board of Humane Voters Oregon to discuss pet safety legislation in the next session. Thursday I’m going to meet the Alsea School District Superintendent and cut a ribbon at the new Lakeheart Guest House.
Friday I cruise Devils Lake for a review of invasive weeds and control measures. I sit down with the IBEW to talk about the balance between new jobs and fishing jobs in wind energy areas. And then I’m chairing a working group meeting on volunteer engagement and how to find more people to help first responders when local events happen.
Finally, on Saturday we’re celebrating all of the upgrades to the Oregon Coast Aquarium with a gala event. They asked me to say a few words about the $5 million state support we were able to get.
It’s been a busy but constructive week, as always. I hope I can see many of you.