Regional News

Homeless Pkg Likely To Advance In Salem

SALEM, OR -- Two bills from a package of legislation targeting homelessness and housing are expected to go before the full Oregon House this week for a vote. The Joint Ways and Means Committee held work sessions Friday for the bills that would send $200 million to several state agencies for programs to reduce homelessness and increase housing.

Rep. David Gomberg (D-Lincoln Co.) urges passage of HB 5019, "What we’re talking about here is funding the Governor’s Executive Order for homelessness, for providing roughly $27 million for those 26 rural counties that could not be included in the Governor’s Executive Order, and finally, to provide roughly $24 million for homeless youth."

Rep. Andrea Valderrama (D-E. Portland) is pleased with the progress, "This estimated $200 million investment is the result of Democrats and Republicans coming together to deliver meaningful outcomes for the people of Oregon. Oregonians are clear that this must be our top priority, so we’re making the unprecedented push to have this on the Governor’s desk by this month."

Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton) worries it’s too much, too fast, "I just really have the feeling that we are throwing money at a problem at a rate that the money can’t be absorbed." And Rep. E. Werner Reschke (R-Crater Lake) is concerned about accountability for the spending, "[House Bill] 2001 and 5019 are starting points for this conversation, and I appreciate that; I really do. But it can’t come with this kind of price tag. I think we need to get innovative. We need to rethink how we address these particular issues. My big concern is: do we run out of money at the end of the biennium?" In response to that concern, agency heads told the committee advance work is already underway to make sure programs can start as soon as the funding is approved.

Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-N.E. Portland) is a Committee Co-Chair. She believes reporting requirements will keep agencies accountable, and says more bills are coming to shore up the effort, "We are sitting in a place where we’re putting a lot of resources in the direction that we feel is absolutely necessary at this moment. And, just to be clear: It is our job to have a balanced budget at the end. And we will make hard decisions about what we can and cannot spend money on."


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