Oregon senators passed a bill Thursday that would create a loan program for eligible agricultural employers who might need help paying overtime wages under Oregon’s new agricultural overtime rule.
What it does
HB2058A directs the Oregon Business Development Department to create a “repayable award program” to help agricultural employers offset increased labor costs associated with Oregon’s new agricultural overtime rule. Eligible employers can apply for up to $40,000 in assistance.
The fine print
To qualify for the program, agricultural producers also must qualify and apply for the agricultural overtime tax credit, which was added to the overtime bill last session to help farmers offset increased labor costs. Farms must also demonstrate that they do not anticipate earning more than $3 million in gross income in the current year.
Employers would have to pay repay the award within two years.
Labor contractors are not eligible for the award, but farm operators who hire labor contractors are.
Funds would be established in the State Treasury and be separate from the General Fund. Treasury will pull up to $10 million from the Oregon Business Development Department’s emergency allocation, plus $150,000 from the General Fund.
Other funding channels include interest earned by the fund, earnings received on money in the fund and money appropriated or transferred by the Legislative Assembly.
If the fund’s balance dipped below $10,000, all remaining funds will be transferred to the General Fund.
Who’s behind it
Farmers and advocates had mixed feelings about the bill’s effectiveness.
The Oregon Winegrowers Association and the Oregon Wine Council submitted opposing testimony.
The Winegrowers Association said it was a helpful step in mitigating any financial hardship caused by paying overtime wages. The Wine Council, meanwhile, said the bill is at best a “band-aid,” and one that many growers won’t use.
“Taking out a payroll loan is not a sustainable way to run a business, nor is this a risk many producers will be willing to take,” Wine Council president Sam Tannahill said in written testimony.
The bill cleared the Senate, 19-10. It earlier passed in the House, 41-10.
Sen. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, was among the 10 no votes.
“This is a band-aid fix,” Bonham said on the Senate floor Thursday. “It still fails to recognize that the tax credit model isn’t functional or viable for producers.”
Now that the bill has cleared both the House and the Senate, it will head to Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk for approval.
Shannon Sollitt covers agricultural workers throughReport for America, a program that aims to support local journalism and democracy by reporting on under-covered issues and communities. Send tips, questions and comments to email@example.com.