Oregon is officially gearing up for another Legislative Session in Salem with newly elected legislators hoping to make a difference for their constituents. As is typical with elections, results rarely if ever align on all fronts with your personal preferences. Regardless of the election outcomes this past Fall, it is our job at the association to build effective working relationships with leaders from both parties.
We had a very tangible return on investment recently which most likely stood out to you as a hospitality operator to prove how ORLA advocacy and relationship building efforts can drive bottom line results for your business – House Bill 3389 in the 2021 Legislative Session.
Restaurant and lodging businesses become members of ORLA because they understand the importance of industry representation and intelligence gathering. There are of course other reasons to join ORLA but for me, House Bill 3389 takes the cake. Our hope is the updates below showcase why it is of crucial importance for us to continue to band together to protect, improve, and promote Oregon’s hospitality industry.
What Was House Bill 3389?
House Bill 3389 was collaborative legislation passed in 2021 to provide short- and long-term pandemic tax relief to Oregon employers while protecting the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. This important bill provided assistance to Oregon employers in several ways:
Combined, the short- and long-term provisions of House Bill 3389 provide significant relief to Oregon employers.
Doing our Part to Protect the Integrity of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund
If you and others you know experienced setting up numerous job interviews for open positions only to have no one show up, you’re not alone. ORLA has been actively working with OED to make sure we’re doing our part as employers to share intelligence about job recruitment efforts. The goal is to make sure recipients of unemployment insurance benefits are actively looking for work and willing to accept work while also protecting the solvency of the trust fund which makes unemployment benefits widely available for those who qualify and need assistance during times of professional transition.
The Oregon Employment Department relies on employers to help identify potential fraud and other issues with the Unemployment Insurance system. The current best route for employers to report people who do not show up for work when they are offered a job, turned down an offer of work, or who do not come back after being recalled from a temporary layoff is through the utilization of the following public website at: bit.ly/OEDrefuse.
For other types of suspected fraud, the Oregon Employment Department has another, more general form (so some questions may not apply to all scenarios) at bit.ly/OEDfraud.
Employers can also report suspected UI fraud to the department’s Fraud Hotline at 1.877.668.3204. | Jason Brandt, President & CEO, ORLA
Below are some highlights from the 2022 Regular Session. A more comprehensive list of bills ORLA tracked can be found in the Bill Tracking Report.
SB 1514 – Pay Equity
Originally a placeholder bill, ORLA monitored this bill as it became a vehicle to extend the ability of employers to offer hiring and retention bonuses. Because of the pandemic and government shutdowns of Oregon restaurants, many operators found themselves needing to offer hiring and retention bonuses to staff or prospective staff. The extension allows for businesses to continue to offer these bonuses without running afoul of Oregon’s Pay Equity Law until September 28, 2022, or 180 days beyond the expiration of the Governor’s Emergency Declaration which occurs April 1, 2022.
HB 4015 – Entrepreneurial Loans
ORLA supported this bill to help expand eligibility for state entrepreneurial loans and raise the per-loan limit from $500,000 to $1 million. This bill passed and was signed by the Governor on March 2, 2022, becoming effective immediately.
HB 4101 – Smoking Bill
ORLA initially opposed this bill which would have increased the distance from businesses at which someone could smoke from 10 to 25 feet. After an amendment in the House excluding OLCC-licensed businesses was passed, ORLA was neutral on the bill, but it died in the Senate.
HB 4152 – Franchise Bill
This was essentially the same bill that was introduced last session. ORLA opposed this bill which, among other provisions, would have allowed franchisees to use the brand name but nothing else related to the brand identity, quality, or reputation. Although the bill died in committee, we do expect the bill to return in the future and there is the possibility an interim legislative session committee or workgroup might review this issue.
HB 4153 – Creative Opportunity Fund
This bill established an “Opportunity Fund” equal to a dedicated two percent portion of the overall Oregon Production Investment Fund (OPIF) each year that could then be used for workforce development, employment training and mentorship, project and filmmaker grants, content and creator development, small business and regional production development, amongst other things. ORLA supported the bill for the economic and tourism opportunities available when these investments occur. The bill passed the House and Senate and as of this writing, was waiting for the Governor’s signature.
Questions? Contact ORLA Director of Government Affairs, Greg Astley.
NOTE: ORLA's blog will be going offline for upgrades the last week in October.
[October 22, 2021] - Meals Tax Fight | Free Training | Continued Push for RRF
Local Meals Tax Fights Continue - We are neck deep in local opposition campaigns in both Cannon Beach and Newport in support of our local restaurants doing business in those communities. As you’ve heard before, we’ll most likely know later in the evening on November 2 whether either of these proposed 5% meals tax proposals pass by will of the voters. Here’s the latest media coverage from earlier this week.
Free Covid Online Training Extended – We have made the decision to extend access to the free online training we created at the association to assist restaurant and lodging operators and their staff with the challenging customer service dynamics when dealing with mask mandates across the state. We will keep these Guest Service Safety trainings (restaurant and lodging versions in both English and Spanish) available online for free through at least the end of the calendar year. Make sure to take advantage for your own operation and feel free to spread the word and share the following link so others in our industry can access this free resource thanks to a sponsorship from Anheuser Busch.
ORLA Media Event – Your state association in conjunction with several other state associations around the nation will be holding media events to continue pressing the need for restaurant revitalization funding for all eligible applicants. We want to thank Gabriel Pascuzzi, Chef & Owner of Mama Bird for stepping up and representing 2,592 restaurant businesses like his who remain out in the cold with no restaurant revitalization funding after applying for federal financial relief. We’ll do our best to make an impression in the media this coming week and keep the chorus going as we press federal elected leaders to make good on their promise.
Here for Oregon Partnership – The Oregonian is our latest sponsor of the Oregon Tourism Leadership Academy program and we want to thank Oregonian Media Group President John Maher and their Vice President of Brand and Strategic Partnerships Amy Lewin for thinking big and launching their “Here for Oregon” initiative. The Oregonian is launching this new effort to help share the good across our great state. Powered by the incredible teams and tools of The Oregonian/OregonLive, they are taking the stories created every day and building a new place dedicated to lifting and celebrating Oregon. This multi-media approach offers a custom blend of community-driven content that is distinctly Oregon. It's an extraordinary aggregate for joy, awareness, and connection across the state. Whether you live in Pendleton, Pleasant Hill or Portland, there’s a place for you here and we want to help celebrate what the Oregonian is working to accomplish. As they begin to roll out their efforts, John and Amy are inviting their community partners to join them in building, from the ground up, stories of the people, the places, the experiences and the diversity of culture and skills that inspire innovation and community. Share Oregon. “Like” and “Follow” @HereisOregon on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube Get the good stuff. Subscribe to Here is Oregon weekly e-newsletter. Show you’re here and tag good news in your community with #HereisOregon.
[October 4, 2021] - Foundation Updates | Industry Recovery Trends | OTLA
Oregon Hospitality Foundation Updates - This past week, ORLA’s Executive Director of the Oregon Hospitality Foundation Wendy Popkin announced she has accepted a new role with the Washington County Visitors Association as Vice President of Destination Sales. We hope you all join us in celebrating Wendy’s contributions to the Foundation over the past nine years. In conversations with Wendy and Foundation Board members, we are moving forward with a plan to hire two new full time positions in support of the hospitality foundation. One position will be an executive coordinator for foundation governance while also serving as our ProStart Liaison for Oregon’s 40 participating high schools. The other position will be a Workforce Development Coordinator focused on creating stronger connections between industry leaders and high school and community college classrooms – think guest speaking opportunities, job shadow coordination, career/job fair involvement, and experiential field trips. Reach out to ORLA if you know someone interested in these positions.
National Restaurant Trends - The latest economic trends in the restaurant survey based on a feedback from 4,000 restaurants across the nation. The NRA's infographic and associated letter sent to DC leadership focus on the importance of preventing new taxes on small businesses as our industry continues to grapple with the impacts of the enduring pandemic. Activity in DC continues to be touch and go and our Government Affairs team will continue keeping all lines of communication open with our partners at AAHOA, AHLA, and NRA as developments unfold.
[September 24, 2021] - Fight Against Meals Taxes / Chair's Getaway / Conference Program
Fights Against Meal Taxes Continue - The ORLA professional team led by Steve Scardina and Terry Hopkins in their regions of the state and supported by Greg Astley, Tom Perrick, and Glenda Hamstreet in our Government Affairs Department are working hard to defeat meals taxes appearing on the November ballot in the cities of Cannon Beach and Newport. Our websites for the campaigns are up and running and our success in defeating both proposals is largely dependent on our ability to keep local restaurants in both communities engaged and in the forefront. It is critical that ORLA take a back seat to the local names and faces that make up a local restaurant industry while fully leveraging ORLA’s association structure to assist our local members in fighting effectively against tax proposals when they are opposed by members in cases like this. In the past 4 years, we have successfully defeated two other restaurant tax proposals – one in Jacksonville and one in Hood River County. We hope to defeat these two tax proposals and should have results to share on November 2 or 3. Vote No Sales Tax on Meals!
ORLA Hospitality Conference Success - Earlier this week ORLA held a 2-day in-person conference for industry members at the Riverhouse in Bend. Feedback so far has been very positive, citing keynote and breakout session messages on target and insightful for the hard-hit hospitality industry. ORLA members also had the opportunity to vote in several new members of the Board of Directors. Save the date for next year's event on Sunday & Monday, September 11 and 12 at the Graduate hotel in Eugene.
Chair’s Getaway - We are off and running in creating a great experience on Oregon’s north coast for our Chair’s Getaway event on Sunday, November 7 which will be co-hosted by Incoming Chair John Barofsky and Outgoing Chair Masudur Khan. We want to take a moment to thank Shannon McMenamin and her team at the Gearhart location for working with us to put together the Reception and Multi-Course Dinner on site. Also, a big thanks to Outgoing ORLA Chair Masudur Khan for making the SaltLine Hotel available for overnight stays and our sponsors at US Foods (thanks Randy) and Pacific Seafood for their food donations. We also have America’s Hub World Tours joining us as a Transportation Sponsor this year for those who prefer a shuttle bus between the hotel and the restaurant. The Chair’s Getaway event has 50-60 people in attendance and is an opportunity to raise funds for ORLAPAC under the direction of Greg Astley, ORLA’s Director of Government Affairs. I hope you consider making a donation to ORLAPAC and join us for this great reception, dinner, and overnight stay following on November 7. Register here to reserve your seats – we expect this will sell out so act soon.
[September 17, 2021] - Win for Lottery Retailers / Vaccine Mandates / EIDL Updates
Win for Lottery Retailers – ORLA’s membership includes a segment that cares deeply about the association’s advocacy for lottery retailer issues. ORLA in partnership with many other stakeholders was able to secure a win with the Governor committing in writing to prohibit any expansion of state sponsored gambling on mobile devices with an exception for the options already available on cell phones. The following two letters spell out the request made by us and our partners to legislative leadership and the Governor’s response essentially putting a moratorium on any gambling expansions on cell phones for the duration of her term in office.
Vaccine Mandates – We expect to have our hands full in the coming months as the potential for emerging vaccine mandates continues to be debated primarily at the local levels of government outside of President Biden’s announcement this past week. We have been made aware that King County in Washington State will move forward with a vaccine mandate but has decided to again target specific businesses with the mandate as opposed to all businesses. It remains unclear how the new vaccine mandate will be enforced and how the role of restaurant and other industry operators will be defined for those industries impacted. The King County mandate will go into effect in late October. Our reports show the NYC mandate has a vaccine verification compliance rate of less than 30% meaning as many as 70% of operations were not verifying vaccine status at the door. In one of ORLA’s recent surveys we asked operators what types of mandates they would proactively comply with. Under 40% said they would comply with vaccine verification and we suspect the reason is driven by the challenges posed by putting our frontline staff in the position of asking for those verifications universally to dine indoors and the uncertainty of what happens when customers are denied indoor dining service due to a mandate.
As a reminder, we openly shared our survey results and our deep concerns about compliance rates with Multnomah County Chair Kafoury and the Governor’s Office. We’re hoping that step keeps the industry from being targeted while we continue our advocacy and support for vaccines and their importance.
EIDL Program Updates – The Small Business Administration’s Deputy District Director for Portland Sam Goldstein provided us at ORLA with the latest updates on EIDL. The SBA's COVID EIDL Program Summary serves as a review of where we are to date on EIDL expansion. Another webinar presentation is coming up on September 23; register here.
The SBA is continuing to accept loans and modification to existing loans. New applications and increases in existing loans resulting in total amounts to be approved >$500K can be submitted immediately. Decisions on requests >$500K will begin October 8, 2021.
Main Update: Increase in maximum loan amount from $500,000 to $2,000,000 (policy)
Key Changes in Effect as of September 8, 2021:
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