Oregon business owners who fell behind on their rent last year as the coronavirus pandemic took hold may soon be given more time to make up their missed payments.
The Oregon Senate voted 25-4 Wednesday to approve a bill that would give businesses that missed rent payments from April to September 2020 until Sept. 30, 2021, to repay that owed rent. Gov. Kate Brown still needs to sign the bill for it to go into effect, but the legislation received bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature.
Lawmakers allowed the state’s moratorium on commercial evictions to expire last September but gave business owners until the end of March to repay any owed rent they had accumulated to that point. With that rent now coming due, businesses have been urging the legislature to give them more time to make up their debt.
If Brown signs the legislation, House Bill 2966A would be retroactive to March 31, and any eviction process for nonpayment of rent that was initiated before the bill went into effect but has not yet been resolved would be stayed until Oct. 1 or dismissed.
However, the legislation won’t help business owners who are continuing to struggle during the pandemic and have missed rent payments since the moratorium on commercial evictions expired last September.
Proponents of the bill have said that extending the repayment period will give lawmakers time to get rent assistance into the hands of landlords whose business tenants have struggled to keep up with their rent, potentially avoiding an onslaught of commercial evictions.
Lawmakers allocated $100 million in January to launch a commercial rent relief program to help businesses across the state.
Business Oregon, the state agency tasked with administering the fund, approved nearly $59 million to help pay the missed rent of 2,881 businesses statewide during the first two rounds of the program. The agency is using the remaining funds to provide grants to struggling small businesses to cover both operational expenses and missed rent.