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Student loan ombuds focusing on helping borrowers navigate shifting rules, changes in repayment laws (Photo) - 07/11/24

Salem – Student loan borrowers faced significant confusion and frustration this past year in navigating the shifting landscape of loan repayment and forgiveness programs, according to a new report issued by Oregon’s student loan ombuds. Part of the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation, the student loan ombuds is tasked with helping guide borrowers through their options and navigate the confusing road that has become the world of student loans.

As part of the position, the legislature requires an annual report that highlights the work of the student loan ombuds. Lane Thompson, who has been in the position for more than two years, recently posted the second annual report.

Thompson said the past year has been challenging.

“After federal student loan payments were paused during the pandemic, the return to repayment last September was really messy,” she said. “There has been a lot of confusion, because the courts struck down some of the (Biden) administration’s attempts at a loan forgiveness program, complicating federal agencies ability to produce consistent messaging leading up to repayment.”

She said because the rules continue to change, it leads to frustration and confusion for both borrowers and servicers. 

“The good news is that student loan cancellation is more available than ever and people are getting resolution through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and the one-time account adjustment,” Thompson said. “This is especially true for those who have been making payments for a long time.”

Going into year three, Thompson said she is excited that her work will be able to help more people get clarity on their options and eligibility for student loan repayment programs.

“I think that’s the biggest impact I’m having on a day-to-day basis is that people can get help or answers from me,” she said. “We have more resources available and I am out doing more presentations to different organizations.”

The other area Thompson said where her office is having an impact is in helping student loan borrowers avoid scams.

“We are doing more outreach to help Oregonians protect themselves,” she said. “Fewer people are getting scammed and I think that’s because we have the licensing requirements, examinations taking place, and our advocates helping people navigate through difficult situations.”

Thompson said during this past year, she has sent information to borrowers in a much clearer way whether through more experience, online resources, brochures, and relationship building.

“They see me and know that there is a real person here to help them and that really helps,” she said.

Thompson said more relief could be coming.

“I was on a federal rulemaking committee  that worked on specific debt forgiveness rules under the higher education act, and there is some debt relief coming out for people who really need it in the near future,” she said. “There will continue to be changes to the rules and I feel confident that our office will continue to be a good resource as circumstances continue to shift.”

If you have questions about your student loans or issues with your loan providers, contact Thompson at 888-877-4894 (toll-free) or Dfr.bankingproducthelp@dcbs.oregon.gov

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About Oregon DFR: The Division of Financial Regulation protects consumers and regulates insurance, depository institutions, trust companies, securities, and consumer financial products and services. The division is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest consumer protection and business regulatory agency. Visit dfr.oregon.gov and dcbs.oregon.gov.

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Universal Health Plan Governance Board logo
Universal Health Plan Governance Board logo
Universal Health Plan Governance Board announces public committee volunteer opportunities (Photo) - 07/08/24

July 8, 2024

Salem – The Universal Health Plan Governance Board (UHPGB) is recruiting members of the public to volunteer to join its work.

The Oregon Legislature created the Universal Health Plan Governance Board with Senate Bill 1089 in 2023. The board is charged with developing a comprehensive plan to finance and administer a universal health plan for all Oregon residents. The board is seeking committee members to help create the plan, which is due to be presented to Gov. Tina Kotek and the Legislature by September 2026.

The board will select members of the public to serve on four committees:

  • Community Engagement and Communications
  • Finance and Revenue
  • Plan Design and Expenditures
  • Operations and Transition

“The work of these committees will be the basis of our recommendations for a new universal, simplified, high-quality health care system in Oregon,” said Dr. Helen Bellanca, UHPGB chairperson. “It is both challenging and exciting. We need to tap into the broad knowledge, expertise, and lived experiences of people from all around our state to be successful.”

Each committee will have board members serve as a chairperson and a board liaison; the committees will also have additional community members, experts, or interested parties. The board is recruiting people with expertise, as well as those with lived experience to serve on one of the four committees. The following is a summary of the deliverables for each committee and some of the skills and perspectives needed.

Committees:

Community Engagement and Communications – Develop recommendations on community engagement and communications materials that will reach businesses, health care providers, and the public. This includes focused engagement with interested parties as called out in the legislation that created the board. Committee members may have lived experience or knowledge of specific industries and communities affected by a universal health plan.

Finance and Revenue – Develop recommendations to the board on a unified financing strategy for the universal health plan. Committee members may have knowledge of finance and revenue, business administration of health care benefits, and Oregon’s taxation system.

Plan Design and Expenditures – Make recommendations to the board on the elements of the universal health plan, including eligibility, benefit design, quality improvement, provider reimbursements, cost containment strategies, and workforce needs. Committee members will need to have experience and knowledge of the health care industry as a consumer, provider, or academic.

Operations – Make recommendations to the board on the future operations of a new public corporation dedicated to providing health care for all people who live in Oregon. This committee also will be responsible for a transition plan from the status quo to a universal health plan. Committee members will need to be interested in, and have knowledge of, health plan operations.

To ensure equitable representation, the board is seeking diverse representatives from all identities and areas of the state.

To apply, complete the UHPGB committee application online at oregon.gov/uhpgb. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 28. For questions or help, contact the Universal Health Plan Governance Board at uhpgb.info@dcbs.oregon.gov.

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About UHPGB: The Oregon Legislature created the Universal Health Plan Governance Board with Senate Bill 1089 in 2023. The board is charged with developing a comprehensive plan to finance and administer a universal health plan, which is due to the Legislature no later than Sept. 15, 2026. For more information, visit oregon.gov/uhpgb.

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DCBS logo
As temperatures rise, Oregon OSHA reminds employers to protect workers from the potential dangers of heat illness (Photo) - 07/02/24

Salem – As temperatures rise and the risk of heat illness in the workplace increases, Oregon OSHA reminds employers to follow requirements designed to help protect workers from the hazards of extreme heat. The division offers free resources to help employers comply with the requirements.

Oregon OSHA maintains a heat illness prevention rule under which employers must provide adequate water, rest, shade, training, acclimatization – which involves gradually adapting the body to work in the heat – and additional protective measures.

“Employers need to take the potential dangers of heat illness seriously, which means exercising vigilance and focusing on prevention,” said Renée Stapleton, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “We have many free resources to help them comply with our specific requirements, including practical guidance and helpful online trainings they can use now.”

Oregon OSHA’s heat illness prevention requirements apply across industries and where employers provide housing, including on farms. Under the Oregon Safe Employment Act, workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, the right to raise concerns free of retaliation, and employers must maintain safe and healthy workplaces.

The division urges employers to refresh their knowledge of the general workplace requirements and employer-provided housing requirements in these fact sheets:

All heat illness prevention resources are available on Oregon OSHA's A-to-Z topic index page. They include a video training in English and Spanish that satisfies certain training elements of the heat rule.

Oregon OSHA also offers:

Consultation services – provides free and confidential help with safety and health programs, including how to control and eliminate hazards, and hands-on training. The services involve no fault, no citations, and no penalties. 

Technical staff – helps employers understand requirements and how to apply them to their worksites

The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which includes Oregon OSHA, maintains the Multicultural Communications Program that provides outreach to communities with limited English proficiency. That outreach encompasses information about on-the-job safety and health.
 

The Ombuds Office for Oregon Workers provides help with understanding workplace safety and health rights, and workers’ compensation rights.

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About Oregon OSHA: Oregon OSHA enforces the state's workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. The division is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest consumer protection and business regulatory agency. Visit osha.oregon.gov and dcbs.oregon.gov.

Attached Media Files: DCBS logo , Oregon OSHA logo
GOSH 2025 logo
GOSH 2025 logo
Save the date for the March 3-6, 2025, Oregon GOSH Conference, the Pacific Northwest's largest workplace safety and health conference (Photo) - 06/18/24

Salem – With more than 160 workshops and sessions, the Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health (GOSH) Conference will be held March 3-6, 2025, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The event offers an outstanding opportunity to gain up-to-date knowledge that can be used to strengthen workplace safety and health programs across the state.

The event is the largest workplace health and safety conference in the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest in the U.S. It welcomes everyone from safety committee members and emerging environmental health and safety professionals to quality control supervisors, labor advocates, and employers across industries to gather for a variety of learning opportunities.

Registration for the conference is expected to open in winter 2024. But you can participate in and support the GOSH Conference now. Nominations are being accepted for the 2025 GOSH Awards, which will honor organizations and people who make exceptional contributions to workplace safety and health. Award nominations are due Oct. 25, 2024.

You can also learn about the event’s keynote speaker, Sally Spencer-Thomas, co-founder and president of United Suicide Survivors International. A clinical psychologist and award-winning mental health advocate, Spencer-Thomas is the lead author on the National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention. During GOSH, her presentation – “You Can’t Fix Your Mental Health With Duct Tape: Why Burnout Mitigation, Mental Health Promotion, Addiction Recovery, and Suicide Prevention are Health and Safety Priorities” – will go to the heart of why mental health in the workplace matters.

Learn more about Spencer-Thomas by visiting the GOSH website’s keynote speaker page

Sponsorship opportunities to support the 2025 GOSH Conference are available, too. And the conference will again feature the Columbia Forklift Challenge, inviting trained forklift drivers to compete in an obstacle course to highlight their skills – and the importance of forklift safety. 

You can stay updated about the conference – including registration, exhibits, the forklift challenge, and other information – by visiting the event’s website. You can also get connected to GOSH updates by signing up to receive emails

The conference is a collaborative effort by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA), the Columbia-Willamette Chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals, and labor and businesses in Oregon and southwest Washington. 


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About Oregon OSHA: Oregon OSHA enforces the state's workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. The division is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest consumer protection and business regulatory agency. Visit osha.oregon.gov and dcbs.oregon.gov.

Attached Media Files: GOSH 2025 logo , DCBS logo , Oregon OSHA logo