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Oregon lawmakers OK $30 million to buy motels as shelters for wildfire victims

Oregon Legislative Emergency Board
Oregon Legislature
Oregon Legislative Emergency Board met virtually on Friday.

But Emergency Board rejects $35 million more for homeless shelters

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon lawmakers have voted to distribute $30 million to community groups and local governments, to buy motels and hotels to shelter people who lost homes in recent wildfires.

The Oregonian/Oregon Live reports the Legislative Emergency Board had an unusually emotional, even confrontational virtual meeting on Friday, as Republicans and even some Democrats clashed with other Democrats over whether to spend another $35 million on a similar program to shelter people experiencing homelessness.

Critics of the added spending argued the request lacked details and was being rushed to a vote without adequate time for lawmakers to research it. They also noted that Gov. Kate Brown may call lawmakers to a third special session after the election.

The E-Board, as it's known, makes budget adjustments between sessions, but it's taken on a more significant role in distributing funds since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the paper reported.

The funding decisions left Portland-area lawmakers relatively empty-handed, while those from wildfire-ravaged areas could soon see millions go to projects in their districts.

News release from Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek:

Recap of Today’s Emergency Board

Over the last 6 months, the Legislative Emergency Board has met regularly to address urgent issues in these unique times. This afternoon, we held a five-hour meeting to consider important proposals to address the devastating impacts of the pandemic and wildfires.

The agenda included two items, for a total of $65 million dollars, to fund Project Turnkey, an innovative partnership with the Oregon Community Foundation to support the acquisition and retrofitting of hotel and motel properties to be converted to emergency shelters for unsheltered Oregonians. The state estimates we need at least 10,000 shelter beds for people in desperate need of a roof over their heads as we head into winter months. Project Turnkey would have supplied more than 1,000 units for our neighbors facing homelessness because of the pandemic or wildfires.

One of the items, for $30 million, was dedicated to shelter needs for counties impacted by the recent fires. That item passed.

The other part of the proposal, for $35 million, was a broader attempt to address shelter needs around the state resulting from the pandemic. That item did not pass.

I’m beyond frustrated about this. I will never put process over people. Further delay will be incredibly costly for our most vulnerable Oregonians. I strongly support this public-private partnership and won’t stop fighting for it. I will ask to have the Emergency Board take up this item again soon.

Here are the other items that passed:

  • $10 million to support the operations of shelter services, with funding prioritized for wildfire-impacted communities.
  • $7.4 million to school districts, education service districts, and public charter schools to mitigate the cost of damages related to the wildfires and/or help students and their families recover from the impacts of recent wildfires.
  • $1.4 million for the procurement of a Statewide Alert System that all counties will be able to utilize soon.
  • $50 million to the Oregon Department of Transportation for ash and debris removal and the authorization of the use of $295.7 million for hazard tree removal along wildfire-impacted roads.

You can read the full Emergency Board agenda here and stream video from the meeting here.

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      1. Compassion would be waiving rules to rebuild.
        I’m all in for that, lets hope our elected leaders see it that way.
        Can we agree on waiving modern building codes to get these folks back on their feet?

    1. PERS has been reformed three times already and Kate, who I really don’t like much, has done more to eliminate PERS debt than any other Governor. The only way to reduce the PERS debt more would be to take away Coach Bellotti’s pension (and a few like his that are over a half million a year). Most PERS recipients don’t have a retirement that is better than people in the private sector who invested in a 401k or other retirement plan.

      1. That’s laughable at best. I know quite a few pers people that would disagree with you on that. As far as the coach, hell yes I fully concur. I would also investigate the ethics violations within the pers departments. Do a little checking. I did…. you’ll not be happy with what you find

        1. What part is laughable? That PERS has already been reformed 3 times? It has been. Kate’s latest reform put a salary cap on PERS benefits and shifted part of the contribution to come out of the employees pay. The debt reduction will take place over time by attrition as the older recipients pass away (the ones that are in some cases getting as much as 200% of their final salary). Kate and the Democrats actually accomplished a measure of reform that Republicans have never been able to achieve, and the unions screamed. Any reduction in benefits that are already being received has already been struct down by the Oregon Supreme Court, that is not something that Kate can override.

    2. I cannot imagine being such a desperately evil person. Did you, by any chance, see what it’s for? You would literally fail the standards of kindergarten civics.

      1. if it were an Oregon kindergarten…… EVERYBODY would fail. That said….i don’t give a **** what is for. Lawmakers are lawmakers, not real estate agents, and we don’t have 30 million to spend on hotels. When the fire folks leave, the homeless move in. The lawmakers forgot to tell you that part. Providing for those that got burned out need to come from Portland. The leftists said they were coming to burn the rural areas and they did…. they need to pay for it. Barney was invited by me personally to visit an arson site. He declined and said he didn’t go by unconfirmed reports and Facebook posts….. except it was from the sheriff himself

          1. That’s all you have to say when everything I said is a fact? For no one caring….my posts get censored an awful lot. The governor sure sent a lot of gunfighters to Burns for not caring about me. For not caring about me, you morons sure cry about what I say and you STILL REPLY lots

  1. Why do local governments and community groups need to “purchase” the hotels and motels? Are these the same hotels that lost their businesses due to government shutting them down over pandemic concerns? What will they do with these “non-essential” businesses and buildings when people piece together their lives and move out? Why not give the money to the people in the form of a hotel/motel voucher, to be used at an existing hotel/location of their choice? Seems more of the American way to me.

    1. They will buy these now for the people burnt out and when they no longer need them, then the bums can move in, trash the place as they do to our public lands now and leave it to the taxpayer to clean up after them as we do on the public lands now.

  2. Let’s do what we can to help those burned out by the fires but, monitor every dollar so that some unscrupulous contractor doesn’t pocket disproportionate compensation for updating a old hotel.

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