By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

County asks state to help unemployed

Yamhill County Commissioners on Thursday asked the state for help for people left unemployed by the novel coronavirus, and decided to continue meeting in person as the county sets up systems for livestreaming the meetings over the internet and allowing people to call in their comments.

The county ran a test livestream on its Facebook page on Thursday, but plans to switch to its YouTube account for future meetings.

Commissioner Casey Kulla had urged his colleagues to switch to meeting electronically.

Kulla said people should email their comments ahead of time for items on the agenda and for general public comments, so they don’t have to attend the meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic.

“ We will read them into the record at the meeting,” he said.

Ordinarily, the county meets twice a week, but it has switched to Thursday meetings only, for the time being.

Commissioners agreed to send two letters to Gov. Kate Brown, seeking economic assistance for people and businesses affected by the widespread shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus.

The first asks the governor to make unemployment benefits available immediately, waiving the usual waiting period, and to make the benefits equal to the full amount of wages lost, rather than a percentage.

The second letter asks the state to immediately release “kicker” money to households and individuals that have not already filed their taxes and received their refunds.

The state Constitution requires that taxpayers receive a rebate when the tax revenue for a biennium exceeds the forecast by at least 2 percent; the money is distributed in what are called “kicker checks.”

The letter also asks the state to set up a small business hotline, divert corporate kicker tax money to the state Unemployment Insurance Fund, suspend payroll taxes for small businesses, buy back inventory from schools and restaurants to distribute to food banks and suspend cable internet fees to reduce the cost of telecommuting, among other requests.

Kulla noted that as layoffs have increased, unemployment claims have shot up.

(see our separate story on this)

Commissioners also approved a $28,790 bid from FFA Architecture for architectural services, to remodel the District Attorney’s office, and approved a $1.9 million contract with First Transit Inc. to continue mass transit bus services.

The county had put the bus service contract out to bid, after numerous requests from riders, and in November, announced an intent to award the contract to MTM Transportation, according to Transit Manager Cynthia Thompson.

However, negotiations with MTM closed after the company was unable to meet the county’s maximum cost per hour. When the negotiations fell through, the county began negotiating with First Transit, Thompson said in her memo to commissioners.

The new contract is effective through January 2025, with the opportunity for three one-year extensions.


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