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Layoffs Hit Oregon Coast Particularly Hard

Kyra Buckley

The Oregon coast has been hit especially hard by layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than ten percent of the workforce filed unemployment claims in both Lincoln and Clatsop Counties. Those are two hardest hit counties in the state, according to an analysis by the Oregon Employment Department.

Both counties rely heavily on the tourism industry, which has effectively shut down. Judy Kuhl, the executive director of the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, said the town is has undergone a dramatic change.

"Like everyone, we are struggling," she said. "We have so many businesses that are just completely closed."

Kuhl said some restaurants that initially tried to stay open by offering take-out orders have since shut down entirely.

“It’s almost an eerie feeling to drive by the businesses. I drove down on our historic bayfront, and it’s just unreal," she said. "You just can’t even imagine the feeling it is.”

But Kuhl credits locals with following social distancing guidelines. As of Thursday, Lincoln County had just four confirmed cases of COVID-19, and no deaths.

In Lincoln City, the story is much the same.

"It's really odd to see the streets pretty bare, honestly," said Lori Arce-Torres, the executive director of the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce. "It feels like the middle of winter, but even slower than that."

Still, Arce-Torres said some local companies are trying to take advantage of the unexpected slowdown.

"A lot of them are taking this time to re-look at how they do business," she said. "We've had some that have been able to get an online presence going that have never had that before."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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