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State isn’t fully paying Medford hotel tax for fire survivor rooms

My hometown is Phoenix. We still own property at the south end of town. Came within 300 feet of being burned out. Do you know if FEMA or the state have to pay Medford lodging tax for those they are housing in local motels?

― Larry, Jacksonville

The state of Oregon took over the mission of housing fire survivors in January of this year.

More than 4,200 people lost their homes due to the Almeda and South Obenchain fires that tore through Jackson County in September 2020.

Since then, several hundred have been living in local hotels paid for by the state. Numbers have fluctuated over the months, but they are often in the 500s to 700s. Some people have moved out of hotels after finding housing, while others have turned to motel-living after couch-surfing with friends and family.

After someone stays in a hotel room for more than 27 days, the city of Medford no longer receives city lodging tax for that person’s stay, said Trevin Mikels, city of Medford financial support specialist.

The rationale is that if people are staying more than 27 days, they essentially are no longer transient visitors. The hotel room becomes more like a long-term rental, Mikels said.

The city of Medford’s transient lodging tax rose from 9% to 11% in 2020 after voters approved an increase to help fund a sports and events complex.

Before the September 2020 fires, Medford lodging tax revenue was already taking a hit from reduced travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While housing fire survivors in hotels for long-term stays isn’t benefiting city coffers, the infusion of money is helping the local lodging industry. The state has also been paying for local restaurants to prepare meals for survivors since hotel rooms usually lack kitchens.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.