Eugene Community Recovery
(Updated July 30, 2020)
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across our community, state and nation, and the road ahead to full-recovery will likely be a long one. Eugene Community Recovery represents the work of the City of Eugene, regional partners and members of our community who are working together to restore and improve the health and prosperity of our city.
Within the City of Eugene, we support these efforts by enhancing our existing programs, processes, and procedures to identify ways to be nimble, opportunities to improve equity and access, and finding ways to respond to the new type and level of need within the community.
Impacts of COVID-19
Subject matter experts on the Eugene Community Recovery team researched the impacts of COVID-19 in Eugene across many sectors in May and again in July. Key findings included:
- The existing gaps in service and basic needs for community members are only growing larger.
- Marginalized communities are more adversely affected by COVID-19, both in contracting the virus and in the resulting economic impacts from the virus. Access and equity to services with marginalized populations continues to be inadequate.
- Prior to COVID-19, childcare in Lane County had a high demand and an insufficient supply. This disparity has increased due to COVID-19. Families have limited options available. Reliance on friends and family is limited due to the virus. Programming options and childcare centers have lower capacity due to distancing and facility improvement requirements. Smaller facilities cannot break even with current limitations on partial care and group size, and some are operating at a loss or choosing to close. In order to bolster the local economy, childcare is essential in getting parents back to work.
- The percentage of Lane County residents experiencing unemployment is currently at 14.7% but peaked at 22% in April. The Census indicates in previous years Lane County’s average income has been lower than the State of Oregon’s, and that Oregon’s has been lower than the national average. Individual’s economic stability is at a higher risk in Eugene due to lower incomes prior to COVID-19.
- 55% of Eugene’s renter households spend more than 30% of their income on housing, meaning they are “housing cost burdened.” Renters are protected with Governor Brown’s moratorium on evictions through September. With the additional Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation terminating at the end of July, this bubble of security with rental payments is anticipated to disappear.
- Homelessness is projected to increase due to the economic impacts from COVID-19. Columbia University conducted a study that estimated a 40 to 45% nationwide increase in homelessness following this event. With already high levels of homelessness locally, we can expect Eugene’s homelessness numbers and demand on services to increase.
- Community need is at an all-time high and our local nonprofits are strained in their ability to deliver vital services. With fundraisers cancelled and limitations on accessing volunteers, the ability to deliver services to the community is challenging. Some of these nonprofits like St. Vincent de Paul, Food for Lane County, and White Bird deliver essential services to the community on behalf of the City.
- The future of construction and development is unknown. Supply chain impacts and labor availability have challenged projects currently underway. Projects that have yet to begin construction are experiencing funding challenges. City projects remain underway which helps bring confidence and employment to the community.
- As a safer place to recreate during COVID-19, Eugene’s natural spaces have seen an uptick in traffic. This increased level of use comes with an increase in required maintenance along with unintended negative consequences to natural habitats.
- The nonprofit arts and culture sector in Eugene generates upwards of $60 million in total economic activity, supporting over 2,000 jobs and generating nearly $4 million in local and state government revenue. The Hult Center closed during COVID-19 for the first time in its 38-year history.
- Transit is operating on lower frequency schedules with some routes cancelled until further notice. With many lower income, marginalized, and/or essential worker community members relying on transit, these changes impact the ability to meet their basic needs.
Recovery Focus Areas
Eugene Community Recovery identifies the following areas to increase community wellbeing and respond to the impacts of COVID 19. These areas are a way to prioritize our work. There is no limit to the action items that can fall within these focal areas.
1. Community Data and Outreach
No community is the same and a one-size fits all approach to recovery may further compound inequities across sectors. Many of the community impacts are still unfolding and Eugene specific data is limited. Real-time community needs may change.
Eugene Community Recovery will conduct extensive community-wide outreach to gather local information and data to inform plans and actions. Outreach will include community-wide online surveys and personalized efforts to reach high impact locations and populations.
2. Public Health Support
Recovery can only occur if community members are healthy and have enough confidence in the response efforts to participate. Lane County is the lead agency for public health emergencies, and the City of Eugene is an important partner in promoting public health solutions.
Currently the City of Eugene is providing masks to businesses through the City’s business outreach team in partnership with Business Oregon. The Eugene Community Recovery team is also collaborating with Lane County and the University of Oregon on the expansion of testing.
High demand and insufficient childcare options created a competitive and expensive childcare environment in Eugene prior to COVID-19. Health and safety concerns combined with physical distancing requirements has increased this disparity. In order to bolster our local economy, access to childcare is essential to getting parents and caregivers back to work.
City of Eugene Recreation is helping meet this crucial need through use of the Cuthbert Amphitheater for children’s programming and care. Additionally, the City’s Building Permit Services division assisted with expediting the temporary occupancy permit for KidSports so the summer camp for 140 kids could open. The City continues to look for new ways to collaborate with local partners to meet this community need.
4. Nonprofit Support
Our community nonprofit sector may have a challenging future due to competition for funding and an increasing need for community support. Many of these nonprofits provide services on behalf of the City to community members.
Eugene Community Recovery efforts may include incentivizing the strategic partnering of nonprofits to ensure basic needs are met, organizations can stay afloat, and a more concentrated funding effort can exist.
5. Housing Security
Increased unemployment due to COVID-19 has decreased the paycheck stability of renters and homeowners. As financial uncertainty is prolonged, affording housing payments will continue to be difficult. A large portion of Eugene households already struggle to afford housing. The impacts of COVID-19 increase the risk of losing housing and experiencing homelessness.
The City’s existing housing programs will be essential to this effort. The City Council recently allocated additional $839,940 Community Development Block Grant COVID-19 dollars. Additional efforts include continuing to support the addition of new housing units such as the 1059 Willamette Street project which will provide a mix of affordable and market rate units in the center of downtown.
6. Job Availability and Retraining
Understanding thriving sectors in Eugene’s COVID-19 economy will help to identify the types of employers and wages we can retain and attract to the area. Focusing on stable economies and mid-level wages will establish a better economic foundation for community members.
The City’s existing job creation and economic development tools will be essential to Eugene Community Recovery. Efforts currently underway include funding to plan for the expansion of EugNET, Eugene’s high-speed internet infrastructure, communicating with local universities and colleges for future job training opportunities, and the regeneration of our Arts & Culture sector which generate economic activity, provides jobs, and enhances our quality of life.
7. Examining and Streamlining City Processes, Procedures, and Rules
Many different types of businesses and projects have encountered challenges from COVID-19 which have resulted in uncertainty in daily operations, financial solvency, and staff availability. They will continue to see uncertainty rise within their business models as the economic impacts and State and Federal public health guidelines continue to unfold.
A few examples of Eugene Community Recovery efforts currently underway include waiving on-street parking permit fees to provide pick-up locations for commercial businesses, extending expiration deadlines for land use and building permits, and expanding restaurant seating by offering a no-cost Streateries permit and strategic street closures to allow physical-distancing seating in the right of way.
8. Buy Local
The City is one of the largest employers in the area. Our workforce represents approximately 1 percent of the population of Eugene. The City has an opportunity to leverage its buying power, operations, and assets to assist the community in recovery.
Eugene Community Recovery efforts currently underway include the continuation of large construction projects such as the Downtown Riverfront infrastructure, continuing seasonal road projects and large capital projects, as well as smaller efforts such as the Library staff pivoting from their day to day work to make masks and 3D printed ear savers in the Library Maker Space.
Eugene Community Recovery’s next steps include communicating this work with the community, planning and conducting community outreach, and researching feasible strategies and projects for each recommendation.
We will also continue to work in conjunction with our partners at Lane County and City of Springfield to maintain critical services, identify community needs and mobilize coordinated responses. Learn about City Services – What’s Open? and Community Resources that provide support now for health and wellbeing, food, businesses, employees, housing, the unhoused, schools and children, and utilities/internet.