2020: The Year in Review
Back in January, none of us could imagine what this year had in store: a global pandemic, mass unemployment, monstrous wildfires, and waves of social upheaval. Trial after trial. I don’t often say this, but I won’t be sorry to say goodbye to this year.
And yet 2020 has not broken us. Through these difficult months, we’ve also seen unprecedented acts of compassion and generosity, cooperation and grace. We’ve seen countless people look out for their neighbors and make sacrifices for the common good. And as we at OEF have stood on the frontlines of this economic crisis, helping our neighbors pay for the basic costs of light and heat, we’ve felt the unwavering strength of our donor community behind us all the while. To all of you, I say: thank you.
COVID-19 defined this year. As incomes dropped and more people than ever fell behind on their utility bills, we pivoted promptly to respond, taking our workspace virtual and launching an emergency fundraising campaign. We teamed up with our partners to adjust our application process and allow clients to receive energy assistance from their own homes instead of traveling office buildings. As part of our advocacy efforts, we helped craft an agreement between the Public Utility Commission and the investor-owned utilities across the state to extend shutoff moratoria through spring 2021. And we distributed $754,000 in funds to 3,072 people across the state, ensuring our neighbors could continue to pay for energy without sacrificing food, rent, or medicine.
In the midst of this, we also launched a new Year of the Student campaign to address the energy burdens experienced by students and their families as they take classes from home this year. The inaugural program, a collaboration with the K-5 charter school KairosPDX, will provide $20 in monthly energy bill assistance for one year to qualifying families. And that’s only the start: we look forward to introducing more programs like this in 2021.
Our work is only beginning. And as our neighbors face the prospect of a long, cold winter, your continued support is that much more critical. But I have hope. Thanks to you, we have met the challenges of this tumultuous year. We did not break. And if we stand united as we have these past months, if we refuse to be discouraged by the road ahead – then I believe a brighter future is out there, waiting for us. Let’s go there together.
Brian Allbritton, Executive Director