On Monday, a special session in Salem decided the future of rental assistance in the state.
The $215 million package includes $100 million for additional emergency rental assistance for tenants, and another $10 million to pay back landlords with tenants who can’t afford to pay rent.
“The only option we have here today in this emergency session is to provide those funds and to provide that certainty for those tenants,” Republican Senator Tim Knopp of Bend said.
In Central Oregon, the nonprofit NeighborImpact saw massive success after the last round of assistance was released in June.
“We put out right around $11 million since June, and so that $11 million went out to 1,791 households in Central Oregon, which gives you an average payment of $6,125,” Executive Director Scott Cooper said.
This time around, they believe they will receive around $1.5 million from the state.
“That won’t be in for a little while because we have to wait for the funding to be approved, but I would guess in the next couple months we’ll start funding again,” Cooper said.
He said the funding was passed largely due to potential evictions elsewhere in the state, but he hasn’t observed that issue in Central Oregon.
“Across all four rounds of rental assistance, we’ve done something like $20 million worth of assistance,” Cooper said. “It’s been amazing, I’ve never seen anything like this in my career…people have been taken care of, we’ve not had anybody that we’re aware of in our database who was evicted for failure to pay rent.”
The last round of funding generated nearly $29 million in requests from 3,532 households in Central Oregon, leaving roughly $18 million left to be processed.
“The unpaid applications will now be transferred to Oregon Housing and Community Services for processing by a third-party contractor using a call center in Washington,” Cooper noted.
“Our office will be available to help people navigate the system, but we will not be involved in processing or paying the next round of applications, due to Oregon Housing’s decision to centralize the program. We’re kind of disappointed about that.”
The next round of rental assistance will last until June 30, 2022, when tenants will no longer be protected if they haven’t applied for rental assistance.
“Most of us here have been fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the urgency, the panic and the desperation that so many in our communities are now experiencing,” said Rep. WInsvey Campos of Aloha during the special session.
Having done everything in their power and everything they were told they needed to do to remain housed, they still remain in danger of losing their shelter and safety.”
More than 67,000 Oregon households recently reported they feel “not at all confident” they can cover next month’s bills, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey.
Despite an overwhelming need, this month the statewide rental assistance program stopped taking new applications after all $289 million of federal funds have been requested and committed to renters.
However, due to a backlog $119 million has yet to reach renters.
Margaret Salazar, the director of the state’s Housing and Community Services, said Monday she expects the remaining federal assistance will be administered to Oregon tenants by March 2022.
In addition, she estimates the proposed additional state funded rental assistance would be administered by June 2022.
Funding passed in the special session Monday also included a $100 million drought relief package, $25 million for preventing illegal cannabis production across the state, $18.2 million to assist Afghan refugees in Oregon, $2 million for gun violence prevention in Multnomah County, and $14 million for affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs in Oregon’s 14 largest cities.