Washington, D.C. – 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!”