This week we held a one-day Special Session to consider a package of bills that are critically important to a very diverse segment of Oregonians across the state.
From renters to refugees to ranchers, we voted to provide a hand up to many of our fellow citizens who are experiencing great need.
Legislation that we approved on Monday will provide the following:
- 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.
While I am enthusiastic about these humanitarian efforts, I am less so about the pathway we have traveled getting here. After two years and several legislative sessions, we have found it difficult, once again, for our state to be able to perform at what I think reasonable people would consider an adequate level of functioning.
What I am talking about is getting the check out the door for the rent money that we have tried so hard as a legislative body to get out to renters, so they are not put out on the streets, particularly in this very cold and rainy weather.
As well as support for landlords, many of whom have gone without income from their rental units, now going on two years. Many landlords in my district, could not afford the home they live in if it were not for the extra room that they rent to someone to be able to meet their mortgage payment. These are not wealthy people. They are also in dire need of support. And yet we have only been able to get checks out the door that total half of the money we allocated for this effort.
One of two things has happened. Either the information we were given as a legislative body was faulty and we made a judgement, voted on a bill and allocated these funds on the basis of faulty information, or we made a miscalculation and assigned vastly too much work to a group of community housing agencies that found the work too difficult and extensive to complete. In either event, this begs us, the legislative body to do an internal investigation of why it is we pass good legislation but as a state we fail to perform.
We have tried everything we can do to balance the equation between tenants and landlords and yet, we’ve fallen short. I think there are very few Oregon legislators who believe that if we were performing at this level in the private sector that we could even hope to retain a job. I don’t believe any private employer would tolerate a fifty percent performance level as an acceptable standard.
Unfortunately, after the same problems experienced with unemployment benefits and the pandemic unemployment aid, our inability to perform the most basic functions of processing applications and getting checks out the door seems to be the norm. It is upsetting, and as the Oregon Legislative body, we can, we need, and we must do better.
I’m hoping that we can finish this year on a positive note, and everyone will enjoy the holiday season. Best wishes to you and yours, as you celebrate this joyous season, but please remember to be careful. Wintry weather can mean dangerous driving conditions, so be safe as you enjoy the holidays and celebrate the year to come.
Even when I am not in Salem, I’m still working with constituents, community leaders and other elected officials on matters that impact our lives. We check our messages daily, so if you have a concern, comment or need help regarding a state issue or agency, please contact my office. I am honored to represent you in the Oregon House of Representatives, and look forward to hearing from you.
Rep. Brad Witt serves House District 31. He may be reached at: