On January 14th, Lincoln County Commissioner Kaety Jacobson met with our Lincoln County LWV, via Zoom, and talked with us about the past year and ongoing local concerns. The first thing on our minds, and the first topic, was the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccination roll-out. She told us the vaccination program had moved rapidly since December; in our county most vaccine doses were given to Samaritan. The county has included teachers in phase 1a vaccine eligibility. Many members asked questions or expressed concerns about the vaccination program.
(Vaccine eligibility and availability are changing. Check the county Health and Human Services Covid-19 website
https://www.co.lincoln.or.us/hhs/page/covid-19-vaccine, or Facebook page, or the call center (541-265-0621) to find out about vaccine eligibility, and, if eligible, to register for an appointment or get on the waitlist. Those who would like to volunteer to help with the vaccination program can do so at https://tinyurl.com/yx9ojbs9.)
Kaety next talked about last summer’s wildfires in Lincoln County. With permission from property owners, state contractors are currently on the ground doing cleanup; they will seek reimbursement from FEMA. The county qualified for FEMA housing and is now working with the Tribe to place manufactured homes in an existing RV park to temporarily house survivors. The county is also asking for disaster preparedness funds to make us more resilient to future wildfire.
Member Cynthia Jacobi remarked that the wildfire exposed problems with emergency communications and road access. Kaety explained that the unusual straight winds accompanying the fires knocked out people’s usual sources of information. She said she has been talking with local radio stations about having radio re-porters relay information to the county call center.
Re: housing and homelessness, Kaety said, “Never waste a crisis.” The Cares (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, allows FEMA to provide exemptions for non-congregate housing, as in hotel rooms. Lincoln County quickly applied for that exemption; the county’s Community Justice Department runs the program and has a block lease for about 45 rooms. Some non-profits (e.g., Grace Wins) are also doing hoteling. The county is now writing proposals to get funds to purchase hotels for temporary housing, working with NW Coastal Housing. As to affordable permanent housing, the new Surf View Village (at 60th St in Newport) rented all apartments and had a waitlist before it was completed.
Re: Child Care, Kaety said the business model does not cancel out and needs to be subsidized: “It’s like patching a large hole with a piece of duct tape.” It will take federal support funds. In-home child care sometimes works; we need to find ways to incentivize this.
League members had more questions and comments: About the 2020 census – Covid cancelled the planned events. We don’t have final numbers, but we’re probably undercounted again. About the availability of broad-band internet connections – Covid changed things; we’ve gotten some money for the school district. We’re working to see where the problems are, partnering with Benton and Tillamook Counties; we’re making progress. About the Animal Shelter – There’s a draft lease agreement; we want a contractor experienced with animal shelters. About Short Term Rentals – We’re working on making changes to county codes. The temporary moratorium on new licenses has been extended.
Thank you, Kaety. It was a good meeting, amazingly informative. (Of course, it would have been better if we could have had an in-person meeting.)