Last week to access more than $128B in Paycheck Protection Program funds

SEATTLE — June 30 is the deadline for small businesses, nonprofits, independent contractors and other eligible borrowers to access a forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. The U.S. Small Business Administration in a press release announced more than $128 billion in funds still are available through the program.

The PPP is a loan to provide a direct incentive for small businesses and nonprofits to keep their workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

As of June 20, the SBA has approved more than 4.6 million PPP loans valued at nearly $515 billion.

More information about the program — including how to find a PPP lender, application forms and new simplified forgiveness and EZ forgiveness applications — is available at www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection.

Oregon announces telehealth agreement for health insurance plans

SALEM – The state of Oregon reached an agreement with several health insurance companies to continue providing expanded telehealth options through at least Dec. 31.

The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services in a press release announced the agreement, which comes after the department and Oregon Health Authority issued guidance in late March requiring health insurance plans of all types to provide coverage for multiple telehealth platforms at the same rate as an in-person visit to limit in-person health care services. This means health insurance companies will continue to provide coverage for expanded telehealth services for Oregonians and pay for these services at the rates established during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following insurance companies have agreed to provide expanded telehealth services through the end of the year: Bridgespan, PacificSource, Cigna, Providence, Health Net, Regence, Kaiser Permanente, Samaritan, Moda and United Healthcare.

In addition to these companies, the Oregon Health Plan will continue to provide pay parity and other allowances for many telehealth services, offering the same rate as an in-person visit for physical health services, behavioral health services and some dental and long-term care services.

Consumer and Business Services encouraged Oregonians to contact their insurance companies and health care providers if they have questions about using telehealth services.

Oregon DEQ hands out $63,750 in fines for manure digester overflow

TILLAMOOK — Oregon environmental regulators issued $63,750 in fines after an anaerobic digester at the Port of Tillamook Bay malfunctioned last year, causing 163,301 gallons of partially treated cow manure to overflow into a nearby creek.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality fined the port, which owns the facility, $19,800. Tillamook BioGas LLC, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, leases the digester and received a fine of $26,700.

DEQ also fined Regenis, of Ferndale, Washington, $17,250. Tillamook BioGas hired Regenis — a company that specializes in building and maintaining farm digesters — to operate the plant.

All three fines are now under appeal. Clay Hartman, project manager for Tillamook BioGas, said the company has spent months raising money to retrofit the digester and comply with DEQ requirements.

"We remedied the underlying conditions that caused the spill," Hartman said. "We did even more than what they asked for, actually."

The anaerobic digester takes manure from dairy farms and captures methane and carbon dioxide emissions from the waste to create electricity. On July 22, 2019, a faulty sensor caused one of the digester’s tanks to overflow, spilling 378,572 gallons of liquid manure overnight. An estimated 163,301 gallons reached a stormwater pipe that empties into Anderson Creek, south of the Tillamook River.

The Tillamook River flows into the Pacific Ocean at Tillamook Bay, where the Oregon Department of Agriculture says there are 10 licensed shellfish firms.

While DEQ and the agriculture department determined there was no public health risk at the bay, water quality measurements at Anderson Creek showed highly elevated levels of E. coli, and water 500 yards downstream from the creek’s outfall was described as "brown and turbid." Additionally, DEQ said the spill killed approximately 100 small fish and caused other adverse impacts to the aquatic environment.

Hartman said the company is not trying to shirk responsibility for the incident, but under new management and increased investment, he is confident the company has the necessary safeguards in place.

"We’re all on board, and we’re not going to let it happen again," he said.

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