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Facing Unprecedented Losses, Oregon’s Restaurant Industry Turns to the State for Aid

The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association has asked for tax relief, unemployment aid, grants, and rent deferment

Oregon state capitol building in Salem Oregon Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Oregon is seeing unemployment rates surge as restaurants are forced to shutter or switch to take-out and delivery services in response to Gov. Kate Brown’s mandate to close dining rooms. The Oregonian reports that unemployment claims leapt by 3,200 percent on Tuesday, and the state may soon see unemployment rates as high as 20 percent — a great deal of which comes from the hospitality sector.

The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) has issued a report outlining these dire issues. It describes the steps the state needs to take in order to mitigate the worst of it, including unemployment insurance, tax reliefs, commercial rent relief and property tax deferments, business grants, and a loosening on laws such as prohibiting to-go liquor sales.

Oregon isn’t alone in its need for government support to protect these businesses and the wellbeing of their hundreds of thousands of workers and the millions of lives affected by the closures. So far, it’s unclear what, if any, of these steps state and federal governments will take to implement and how much it will aid in the catastrophic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, the industry is taking measures into its own hands, with Portland restaurants offering free food to workers who lost their jobs, and laid-off workers staging sit-ins to demand what they say are owed wages.