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Oregon governor, legislative leaders announces goals for special session that begins Monday

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By JIM REDDEN/Oregon Capital Bureau — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced an agreement with leaders of the Oregon Legislature for bills to be considered at the special session she has called for Monday.

Brown said Democrat and Republican leaders have agreed on a proposal to reduce evictions over the winter and other measures.

“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,” Brown said in the Dec. 10 announcement. “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.”

According to the announcement, the session will include 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 announcement said, 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).

As previously announced by Oregon Housing and Community Services, 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.

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.
  • $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.
  • $3 million for emergency soil conservation fund in Jefferson County.
  • $1 million for drought resiliency work in Jefferson County.
  • $1 million for technical assistance for BIPOC farmers and drought resistance crop outreach.
  • $750,000 for drought resistance research and implementation.
  • $300,000 for a statewide drought vulnerability assessment.

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