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COVID-19 and the Local Economy

By Sandra Stevens


Catastrophes hit the poor the hardest, and COVID-19 is no exception.


People like me, who rely on public transportation to get around town, are concerned with Trimet’s increased limitations. First, Trimet announced weekday buses will run slower on a weekend schedule. Then they put a cap on how many passengers can ride a bus (15-passenger limit). This means, if the #15 bus has reached its passenger limit the next time I have a doctor’s appointment downtown, the bus will drive past me and I’ll miss my doctor’s appointment.


Library closures have adversely impacted homeless and low-income communities. People who can’t afford computers rely on libraries for internet access and so much more. The downtown Central Library typically serves 800 patrons a day. That’s 800 people with nowhere to go who have lost access to important resourcesand that’s just one branch. Libraries are “Closed Until Further Notice”no one has any idea when they’ll open again.


Hundreds of canners lost an important stream of revenue when, due to COVID-19, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) temporarily suspended the requirement that retail partners, such as grocery and convenience stores, offer on-site redemption services. This is a direct hit to my bottom line; I stand to lose at least $50 a month as long as the ‘Can Ban’ is in play.


My home is an obstacle course of towering bags of cans, donated to me by kind, generous neighbors. My home is now filled to capacity with cans, and I had to post a “Please No More Cans” sign on my door. I have nowhere to redeem the cansthanks to the OLCC’s ban, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away because that’s throwing money away.


The closest open bottle redemption center to my home is near NE 122nd and Glisan. Not only is this location difficult for me to get to because I don’t have a car, but with the flood of canners at this location, you’re not getting out of the bottle redemption center in a timely fashion. The wait in line could take hours!


It would be short-sighted to assume canners have no stake in the local economy. Most canners I know spend their money on food. Now that canners are ostracized by the OLCC, there’s a lot of money not being spent on food and sundries. There are several things I can’t buy now thanks to the OLCC’s ban on cans; I can’t afford to splurge on pizza once a month like I used to. That means that my local pizza parlor lost a steady customer, which adversely affects the parlor’s bottom line. Drying up a stream of revenue for a large number of people creates a domino effect in the marketplace. People earning less money have little or no money to spend on food and other consumer goods.


Yesterday, I bought a soda and was charged a 10¢ deposit on the bottle. I felt a surge of resentment because businesses continue to charge bottle deposits without giving consumers a chance to redeem those deposits for cash. I hope the OLCC will come to understand how the ‘Can Ban’ is hurting the community and compromising the local economy. Until then, I have no choice but to wait patiently for the OLCC to lift the ban as I maneuver the tin forest in my home.



Sandra Stevens is a Ground Score member and the author of Surviving Sexploitation: The World’s Shortest Memoir available as an e-book from Amazon. She has written for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Salon.com and many other publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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