Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that he has used his seat on the prestigious Senate Appropriations Committee to secure investments that will support critical housing and transportation services and projects across the state. The bill is the basis for negotiations with the House, as Congress works to fund the government for fiscal year 2022.
“This funding tackles some of the most pressing crises in Oregon: Housing affordability and climate chaos,” Merkley said. “Both of these urgent issues affect every corner of our state and nation, and I am pleased that the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated significant resources for homeless assistance grants and community projects in Oregon, and to help electrify public bus fleets and improve electric infrastructure—reducing the carbon emissions that are driving climate change. This bill delivers in a big way for Oregon and the nation, and it’s critical that the Appropriations process move ahead without delay to make sure these critical investments become reality.”
Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill includes support for affordable housing and homelessness services—which are of particular importance as the state grapples with the aftermath of both the coronavirus pandemic and devastating wildfires:
· Community Development Block Grants: Merkley successfully advocated for $3.5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program. This program funds vital housing rehabilitation, supportive services, public improvements and economic development projects in communities across Oregon and the nation while encouraging local investment.
· Affordable Housing: As rural and urban communities across Oregon continue to experience housing crises, Merkley successfully advocated to increase for affordable housing programs for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable people—low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Merkley led 37 of his colleagues in a successful effort to provide an additional $505 million to support continuing rental assistance for 1.2 million low-income households. The senator also protected funding for housing programs that benefit the elderly and people with disabilities.
· Rural Housing: The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) and Rural Capacity Building Program received $15 million and $5 million, respectively. SHOP provides funds for non-profit sweat-equity homebuilders, such as Habitat for Humanity, to cover land purchases and infrastructure costs. The Rural Capacity funds are intended to build the capacity of rural low income housing non-profits by providing training, information, technical assistance, and financing.
· Homeless Assistance Grants: Merkley secured $3.26 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, a $260 million increase that will benefit organizations across Oregon. Within that appropriation, rapid rehousing programs for victims of domestic violence received $52 million; homeless youth programs received $107 million; and Emergency Solutions Grants—particularly important to the Portland metro area—received $290 million to support street outreach, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing assistance.
· HOME Investment Partnerships Program: The bill includes $1.450 billion for the program to provide states and localities with flexible resources to respond to their affordable housing challenges, including rental housing and paths to homeownership for low-income families.
· HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing: The program received an additional $50 million to provide rental assistance vouchers for approximately 4,650 more homeless veterans, along with case management and clinical services. These vouchers have been critical to reducing veterans’ homelessness by 50 percent since 2010.
· Capital Investment Grant Program: The bill includes nearly $2.2 billion for the program, which provides funding for major transit investments that support sustainable transportation and reduced congestion in cities like Portland, Eugene and Salem.
· BUILD Grants: Formerly known as TIGER, the program received a $1 billion investment for 2021. This critical transportation grants program has helped fund projects across Oregon such as the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge replacement project.
· Essential Air Service and Contract Towers: Merkley secured $313 million for the Essential Air Service. The Essential Air Service program supports flights between the City of Pendleton and Portland International Airport, a vital connection to support economic development across Eastern Oregon. Additionally, the bill increases funding for FAA Contract Towers to $178 million. There are six contract towers across Oregon, and this funding ensures their continued operation.
The next step for the bill is a full Senate vote, and eventually merging with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.
In addition to the funding allotments above, Merkley and Senator Ron Wyden secured in the bill federal funding for specific housing, transportation infrastructure, and other projects throughout Oregon, including:
· $2 million to Casa of Oregon for Harbor Village RV Park
· $1 million to Homes for Good for Lazy Days Mobile Home and RV Park
· $2 million to Center for Hope and Safety for its HOPE Plaza Housing and Economic Development Project
· $1 million to Oregon Department of Transportation for its project on Tualatin Valley Highway Safety Improvements
· $500,000 to Northwest Coastal Housing for its Golden Eagle II housing project in Tillamook
· $950,000 to Lane Transit District for its Electric Bus Replacement Project
· $800,000 to Creating Housing Coalition for its project at Hub City Village
· $550,000 to DevNW - Community Land Trust Affordable Housing for its project on Community Land Trust Developments in Corvallis and Clackamas County
· $1.44 million to Marion County for the North Fork Road Improvements Project
· $500,000 to Tillamook Municipal Airport for its project on Automated Weather Observing System Replacement
· $6.3 million to Salem Area Mass Transit District for its Zero-Emission Bus Fleet Electrification Project
· $2 million to Habitat for Humanity Portland Region for its Foster Townhomes project in East Portland
· $2 million to Oregon Department of Transportation for its project on I-84 Exit 216 eastbound Snow Zone/Truck Parking
· $1 million to Proud Ground for its project on Expanding Permanently Affordable Homeownership Opportunities
· $600,000 to Lane Transit District for its project on a Trip Planner/Mobile Wallet Application
· $529,000 to Hacienda Community Development Corporation for its project on Portland Mercado Plaza Repairs & Upgrades
· $1.2 million to Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency for its acquisition of property for permanent Veterans’ homeless shelter
· $1.355 million to Multnomah County for its project on a Behavioral Health Resource Center Outdoor Plaza
· $2 million to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde for its project on Blue Heron Infrastructure Improvements
· $1 million for Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency for its project on Brian’s Place: Community Action Sheltering Services
· $1.172 million for Kid Time Discovery Experience for its Early Learning/Childcare Expansion
· $1 million to North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity for its project on Rural Resident Development
· $2 million to Oregon Housing and Community Services for its project on Salem YMCA Veteran Housing
· $3 million to City of Hillsboro for its 53rd Avenue Park West Inclusive Park
“Habitat for Humanity Portland Region is grateful for Senator Merkley’s endorsement of Habitat’s newest development, an affordable 40-home community in SE Portland, located at 136th & Foster,” said Steve Messinetti, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Portland Region. “Through his $2 million request of Congressionally Directed Spending, Senator Merkley continues to deliver on his promise of generating more affordable homeownership opportunities for working families and communities of color. This grant ensures that 40 safe, affordable, family-sized homes will soon be for sale to families earning on average $30-50,000 a year. This new community will also be permanently affordable, allowing homeowners to build equity in their homes, while ensuring that the homes are affordable to the next buyers. This grant will translate to more stable student populations in our schools, more equitable neighborhoods, and more resilient communities. Thank you, Senator Merkley!”
“Harbor Village Cooperative is thrilled to be a recipient of Congressionally Directed Spending within the THUD appropriations bill. These monies will be used to help keep rent affordable for our low income residents as well as replacing our leaking water system,” said Sharon Beck, Treasurer of the Harbor Village Cooperative. “We appreciate the inclusion of our community in the distribution of these funds. Thank you, Senator Merkley.”
“First of all, thank you to Senator Merkley and his excellent team,” said Stacey Bartholomew, President of Creating Housing Coalition. “While there are many more steps ahead of us before everything is finalized, this is a huge win for the unhoused of Albany. Today, we’re so much closer to creating Hub City Village, the first affordable, community-supported, self-governing community, here in Albany.”
“This $2 million for the 1-84 Exit 216 project is welcome news for CTUIR,” said Kat Brigham, Chair of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. “We are glad ODOT has submitted this funding request and we look forward to collaborating with them on it. Creating safety at one of the most treacherous stretches of highway in the national interstate system will be greatly appreciated.”
“With more than $1.5 million in federal funding specifically for Lane Transit District projects, we can continue our mission to connect the community with expanded reliable, sustainable, and quality public transportation,” Mark Johnson, General Manager, Lane Transit District. “This funding will help further electrify our fleet, as well as improve accessibility and trip planning for all modes of transportation. We thank Senator Merkley for everything he’s done to support sustainable public transportation, and for pushing to secure support for our projects.”
“We at Kid Time appreciate the dedication Senator Merkley and his staff have shown to improving access to childcare and improved opportunities for families,” said Sunny Spicer, Executive Director of the Kid Time Children’s Museum. “After the devastation our Southern Oregon region has experienced due to recent wildfires and the ongoing pandemic, the need to provide quality, affordable early learning opportunities is more urgent than ever. This project allows us to do just that.”
“We know that homeownership is the best way for working class families to build financial security and stability, but with skyrocketing costs, homeownership is out of reach for too many Oregon families,” said Emily Reiman, CEO of DevNW. “We’re so grateful to receive this funding, to help build two community land trusts in Corvallis and Clackamas County, to offer permanently affordable homeownership options in those communities. A huge thank you to Senator Merkley for his continued support of affordable housing!”
“The Port of Tillamook Bay is thrilled to learn about receiving the community project funding for the upgraded replacement for Tillamook Airport’s Automated Weather Observing System,” Michele Bradley, General Manager at Port of Tillamook Bay. “This is critical equipment for local and transient pilots, UAS test flights, and emergency helicopter transport. The Port of Tillamook Bay is ready to get this project moving, and are grateful to the senator’s office for assistance with our application, and we are thankful for their support.”
“On June 2nd, 2021, Senator Merkley was on the site of the Lazy Days Mobile Home Park and saw firsthand the devastation caused by the Holiday Farm wildfire,” said Jacob Fox, Executive Director of Homes For Good. “The fact that the THUD bill includes $1 million in federal funding for the Lazy Days Mobile Home park reflects the commitment that the senator has to helping heal and rebuild the community that has been so severely impacted by the wildfire.”
“As our state turns toward economic recovery from COVID-19 and wildfires, it’s wonderful that critical infrastructure may soon be coming on line to address this urgent need across the state,” said Margaret Salazar, Executive Director of Oregon Housing and Community Services. “Oregon families will benefit from these new housing options including the redevelopment of the Lazy Days Mobile Home and RV Park destroyed in the Holiday Farm fire in the fall of 2020. I am grateful to Oregon’s Federal Delegation for their support, and for Senator Merkley using his role on the appropriations committee to prioritize affordable housing.”
“At Proud Ground, we are excited about the potential investment from the federal government in expanding permanently affordable homeownership for working families,” said Diane Linn, Executive Director of Proud Ground. “The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee has recognized that homeownership affordability, especially for families of color, has become a crucial factor toward real progress towards equity, at a time when housing prices continue to soar. This allocation would be a game changer for families left behind in the achievement of the American Dream of homeownership.”
“Golden Eagle II is a valued affordable housing asset in a coastal community where lack of developable land, a lack of rent-restricted units, and low wages contribute to high housing cost burdens,” said Sheila Stiley, Executive Director, Northwest Coastal Housing. “This additional federal support provides long-term health of a challenged but resilient rural community like Tillamook, where the transformative power of decent affordable housing allows elders to stay in town and draw comfort from their community, now and into the future. We want to thank Senator Jeff Merkley’s office for the advocacy and support of this ‘little engine that could.’”
“The Portland Mercado has provided a home for Latino-owned small businesses to thrive and grow in Portland for the past six years,” said Ernesto Fonseca, CEO of Hacienda CDC. “This Hacienda initiative is rooted in Latino history and heritage, traditional and local foods, social enterprise and entrepreneurship, and inspired by the many vibrant cultures and public markets around the world. The direct allocation of $529,000 facilitated by Senator Merkley and his team will enable us to upgrade the Mercado and continue offering a special place for people to gather and small businesses to see their dreams come true. We are grateful for Senator Wyden’s partnership, trust, and support of our Latino small business community. Muchas gracias!”
“We are so grateful to Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden for their support for the HOPE Plaza project! HOPE Plaza will provide affordable housing, job training, and wrap around services under one roof to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking in Marion and Polk Counties in Oregon,” Jayne Downing, Executive Director of Center for Hope and Safety. “The HOPE Plaza project will address the severe housing shortage and the increase in demand for services for victims exacerbated by the pandemic and wildfires in our area. HOPE Plaza will use the trauma-informed Domestic Violence Housing First Model to provide permanent housing to vulnerable families. Thank you to the Senators and their dedicated staff members for highlighting the need for survivors of violence in Oregon!”
“Equity and inclusivity are at the center of our work to address a critical infrastructure need in our community for an inclusive park and playground—and we are tremendously grateful for Senator Merkley’s continued support and advocacy,” said Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway. “In Hillsboro and beyond, children and families with disabilities are counting on all of us to provide spaces and facilities that are inclusive and equitable, that make the joy of play accessible, and that enhance quality of life for all. This significant support from our partners at the federal level will help to accomplish our shared goals.”
“Since its foreclosure, the old Blue Heron site has sat empty and abandoned. The funding allocated to the Grand Ronde Tribe under the Transportation, Housing & Urban Development appropriations bill, will allow us to make significant improvements to the property’s infrastructure and take this project one step closer to welcoming family and friends back to Willamette Falls,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chairwoman of the Grand Ronde Tribal Council. “We want to thank our Senators for work they’ve done to highlight this important project.”
“We thank Senator Merkley for working to secure this significant investment in sustainable public transportation for riders across our region,” said Ian Davidson, President of Cherriots Board of Directors. “With these five new zero-emission electric buses, we will be able to provide our community the quality service they expect, but free of harmful pollution. We are thrilled that this $6.3 million in federal funding will accelerate our transition away from diesel buses and toward the electric infrastructure and vehicles we need to best serve our community.”