Message from Councilor Akins on COVID-19

As Coronavirus Spreads Cities Seek Answers

Offering Sanitation Services and Financial Assistance Suggested
By Julie Akins, Ashland City Councilor

As the Corona Virus spreads throughout the world and in our communities, cities are seeking out best practices.
The State of Oregon is suggesting limiting public events. As a result the Ashland Independent Film Festival and Oregon Shakespeare Festival have closed. Schools have extended breaks and businesses are limiting hours and the numbers of people they are bringing into the office.
This will bring about a deep financial strain for those already one paycheck away from disaster.
The number of cases in the U.S. is still limited at over 1,600, with a death toll of 41, compared to a total of more than 130,000 cases and about 5,000 deaths across the globe. But those U.S. instances have spread quickly across the country from the initial epicenter in Seattle.

As a result people are avoiding malls, shopping centers and entertainment. That lack of money circulating may, according to financial experts, spur a recession. But more salient is the impact on individuals and families. For people in the gig economy, it’s disastrous as jobs are cancelled. For shift workers who are only paid when they work, the same holds true.
That’s why I’m calling for the City of Ashland to take immediate steps such as:

  1. Suspend any utility shut offs
  2. Declare an emergency and notify landlords that evictions are suspended
  3. Leave all bathrooms open for 24 hours per day for hygiene
  4. Suspend all camping tickets so unhoused people can remain near bathrooms for improved sanitation
  5. Increase trash pick up times in public spaces
  6. Consider bridge loans to impacted businesses
  7. Suspend all public meetings and conduct by Skype or Zoom

These are the immediate interim possibilities. There would have to be mechanisms put in to place to enable these actions but I feel confident they could be found. I also believe we need to be calculating possible losses to our tourism dollars in terms of occupancy tax and food and beverage and begin making contingencies.
Sadly, we are in crisis. We are experiencing not only profound fear but loss to community as we cannot gather together. It’s important that we be easy on ourselves and each other and seek out the best ways ways to get through this. 
When we fear, we are not always our best selves. I encourage everyone to use caution but to also lend a hand when and where you can. The poor and marginalized will need food. We will all need supplies as the days wear on around this crisis. If you can help, please offer your assistance.
Check in on the emergency food bank. Check in on friends and neighbors, drop off supplies to those in need at their front porches, maintain contact through phone and internet. If you have money to donate, seek out emergency shelters and do what you can to get your community through this.
Pulling together is our best hope.