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Gov. Brown, top lawmakers agree on eviction relief, other issues for special session

KTVZ file

Other items on agenda include drought relief, illegal marijuana enforcement

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The stage is now set for Monday's special session of the Oregon Legislature, as Gov. Kate Brown and legislative leaders have come to an agreement on planned legislation to fund efforts to head off winter evictions, provide drought relief and tackle other issues, from illegal marijuana enforcement to Afghan refugee resettlement.

“Well, I never predict, but I am sleeping a whole lot better now," Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said Friday. "We may just make this happen.”

Here's the governor's news release Friday, in full, followed by one from Senate Republicans:

Governor Kate Brown, Lawmakers Agree on Priorities for Special Session to Address Urgent Needs of Oregonians

Legislature to address winter evictions, drought relief, illegal cannabis proliferation and humanitarian impacts, and support for Afghan refugee resettlement 

CORONADO, Calif. — After conversations with House and Senate leaders from both parties, Governor Kate Brown today outlined the priorities lawmakers have agreed to address in the upcoming special session of the Oregon Legislature, set to begin at 8 a.m. on Monday.

The Governor has been working with legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle to finalize a proposal to address the immediate needs of Oregon renters in the winter months, as well as to address other pressing issues impacting Oregonians.

“Oregonians facing potential eviction do not have time to wait––they need an immediate solution that keeps them in their homes. And, in the last year, people across Oregon have faced unprecedented challenges due to record heat and persistent drought conditions,” said Governor Brown. “I’d like to thank the legislators from both sides of the aisle who have worked with me over the last several days to put together a package of policies and investments that meet the pressing needs of Oregonians.”

The Governor has worked with legislators to create a policy and funding proposal to take immediate action on the following subjects:

  • Housing: $215 million to prevent winter evictions and transition to long-term, locally-delivered eviction prevention services, as well as an extension of safe harbor protections for renters who have applied for rental assistance.
  • Drought relief: Provide $100 million to help Oregonians impacted by this summer’s extreme heat and drought conditions.
  • Illegal cannabis suppression: Provide $25 million for a comprehensive, statewide plan to address the proliferation of illegal cannabis around the state and ease the associated humanitarian impacts.
  • Afghan refugee resettlement: $18 million to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Oregon.
  • In addition, the Legislature plans to address a number of legislators’ other priority issues, including: affordable housing support in targeted areas ($14 million); grants to outdoor recreation outfitter guides impacted by drought or COVID-19 ($10 million); OHP dental funding ($19 million); East Metro outreach, prevention and intervention program ($2 million); and demonstration projects for cross-laminated timber modular housing ($5 million).

Preventing winter evictions
As previously announced by Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), nearly all remaining federal emergency rental assistance funds have been paid on behalf of, or requested by, Oregon renters. The policy and funding proposal to take immediate action to prevent winter evictions, includes the following elements:

  • Extend eviction safe harbor protections for each individual who has applied for rental assistance and who initiates safe harbor protections by June 30, 2022. Safe harbor protections will remain in place while applications are being processed, to last no longer than September 30, 2022. (Current safe harbor protections in statute last 60 days.)
  • Ensure landlords are paid in full for the rent they are owed.
  • Provide up to $100 million in additional emergency rental assistance to ensure low-income tenants access in the winter.
  • Provide $100 million to support partnerships with existing programs as Oregon transitions from large-scale pandemic-related emergency rental assistance to long-term, locally-delivered eviction prevention services.

Drought relief
Included in the $100 million drought relief package agreed to by the Governor and lawmakers is:

  • $40 million for an agricultural forgivable disaster loan program to fill gaps in federal disaster relief for agricultural producers, and to provide bridge assistance while Oregonians wait for federal funds;
  • $12 million for the Klamath Basin for domestic well assistance, livestock wells, drought resiliency, and for irrigation district assistance;
  • $9.7 million to address drought relief on Klamath Tribal lands;
  • $10 million for agricultural workers who miss work due to unsafe working conditions resulting from extreme heat or smoke;
  • $9.75 million for irrigation district assistance to offset water user costs;
  • $5 million for cricket and grasshopper eradication;
  • $5.75 million for domestic and community well assistance;
  • $3 million for emergency soil conservation fund in Jefferson County;
  • $1.5 million for the Oregon Community Food Systems Network to develop a Disaster Relief Fund for farmers unable to access federal disaster relief funds or the state’s proposed forgivable disaster loan program;
  • $1 million for technical assistance for BIPOC farmers and drought resistance crop outreach;
  • $1 million for drought resiliency work in Jefferson County;
  • $750,000 for drought resistance research and implementation; and
  • $300,000 for a statewide drought vulnerability assessment. 

News release from Oregon Senate Republicans:

Senate Republicans Drive Bipartisan Agreement on Special Session to Address Housing, Drought, and Public Safety

SALEM, Ore. – After repeated failures by Oregon’s housing department to timely implement a rental assistance program, Senate Republicans have pushed for a bipartisan agreement to fix the problem and protect landlords and renters.

“When we first started, we were miles apart,” said Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend). “We were not willing to entertain coming in to pass legislation that we believed would do long-term damage to the rental housing market. Senate Republicans have voted numerous times to extend rental protections over the last 2 years. We weren’t interested in doing it again unless we had a bipartisan deal that would fix the problem at the housing department and ensure housing providers would be made whole.”

As part of the agreement, $5 million will be directed to the Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) to speed up the processing of assistance applications. $10 million will be placed into the Landlord Guarantee Fund, which will ensure housing providers are made whole if a renter who applied for assistance is not eligible. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program will be replenished with $100 million to ensure those who have already applied will get assistance. The assistance application portal may reopen to spend any additional money left over. Another $100 million will go to local agencies for eviction prevention programs.

The safe harbor provisions passed in SB 278 will be available to renters who apply for assistance by June 30, 2022. Those protections will last until the application is processed, or September 30, 2022, whichever is sooner. Then the program will come to an end.

At the request of Senate Republicans, Monday’s session will also include important emergency legislation to support public safety and clamp down on illegal marijuana operations in Southern Oregon; a $99.725 million drought package to help farmers and ranchers recover from this summer's heatwave; money to support incoming Afgan refugees, and affordable housing investment in targeted areas.

“Special sessions are for emergencies,” Senator Knopp continued. “These additional bills will address urgent problems facing Oregonians. The illegal marijuana situation in Southern Oregon is absolutely an emergency. The drug cartels are committing murder, stealing water, assaulting Oregonians, and engaging in human trafficking. Law enforcement needs our support to stop these dangerous operations.

“Oregon’s farmers and ranchers were hit hard by the heatwave this summer. The resources included in the drought package are going to do a lot of good. Our economy relies on a robust agricultural sector. We need to come together for them.

“Many of those who are seeking refuge from Afghanistan risked their lives to help American troops. They deserve our support and help.

“Senate Republicans will be in the Capital on Monday if the language of the legislation being drafted is consistent with these goals.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek expresses support for eviction protections and urgent funding priorities

The Legislature will convene Monday for a special session

SALEM – Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) today expressed support for the special session priority list outlined by Governor Brown and released the following statement:

““We have a proposal before us to keep thousands of Oregonians from losing their housing while rental assistance is on the way. I applaud the two legislative housing chairs – Rep. Julie Fahey and Senator Kayse Jama – for their ongoing work to address this crisis. Next week, we must honor our commitment to keep Oregonians housed.”

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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