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.