Pamplin Media Group – A short session proves productive in addressing major issues in the state

House Democrats successfully tackled five priorities before adjourning on March 4

The Oregon Legislature recently concluded the largest short session in our state’s history.fahey

Like the rest of the country, Oregonians have faced tremendous challenges over the past two years. When we stepped into new leadership roles as President and Majority Leader two weeks before the 2022 legislative session, we knew we had to stay focused on the most immediate and urgent needs of workers and families. .

We have been blessed with stable incomes and US federal bailout dollars to help us tackle these five priorities: urgently addressing homelessness and the affordable housing crisis; building stronger schools; supporting working families and small businesses; lower the cost of living; investing in community safety and violence prevention.

Lodging

Oregon must create a coordinated response to homelessness by partnering with local Oregon cities and counties. We can do this by providing funds to enable struggling Oregonians to access housing or shelter, connect them to essential support services, and move out of homelessness.

That was the goal of the $400 million investment program: to address and prevent homelessness, to increase the supply of affordable housing, and to keep people in affordable housing. These investments will address immediate statewide needs, including accommodation capacity, rapid rehousing, referrals to resources, and services.

The turnkey project is a success on which we rely. The program converts the existing space of a hotel and motel into a refuge. In less than two years, Project Turnkey has increased the number of shelter beds in the state by 20%, which is why we’ve included an additional $50 million to purchase additional properties statewide.

Stronger schools

Students learn best when they are in class five days a week. We started the session knowing that teachers and schools needed more support and staff to be successful. Right now, many teachers are burnt out and our schools are facing teacher shortages.

We responded by approving a $300 million investment in education, including funding to recruit and retain essential staff – like teachers, nurses, school counselors and substitutes – so our children can stay in healthy and safe learning environments.

And for the second year in a row, the state will increase summer learning activities and programs for K-12 students. This will include support to help high school students stay on track for graduation, provide mental health support for children and help communities develop day camps, park programs and tutoring.

Working families and small businesses

We need to rebuild an economy that works for working families and small businesses, not just the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations.

To help our small businesses meet their labor needs, we have supported investments of more than $200 million in career paths and programs to retain and attract workers in critical sectors, including healthcare, behavioral health, education, manufacturing and technology. We’ve also dramatically increased access to small business loans, enabling greater investments in aspiring Oregon entrepreneurs.

Cost of living assistance

For too many Oregonians, covering their monthly expenses has become a challenge. That’s why this session we’ve made targeted investments to reduce the cost of the necessities that eat up the bulk of Oregonians’ paychecks, like child care and health care. We have invested $100 million to stabilize the child care workforce and increase access to affordable child care across the state.

To elevate working communities, Oregonians who received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2020 will soon receive a one-time $600 stimulus payment. That means about a quarter of a million Oregonians in low-wage jobs will receive a direct payment by this summer to help cover the costs of daily necessities like groceries, prescriptions and diapers. This plan will especially benefit people living in rural Oregon counties.

Community Safety

We must continue to invest in proven programs to prevent violence, support victims of crime, and provide mental health and addictions treatment.

That’s why we’ve made smart investments in community safety, including funding to support community organizations working to prevent violence; expand hospital programs to stop shootings; helping local communities clean up trash and provide sanitation services, and provide additional resources to Oregon’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Services Fund.

Communities also need law enforcement to be able to focus on preventing and solving serious crimes. Senate Bill 1510 will reduce traffic stops for offenses like broken taillights that aren’t dangerous and disproportionately impact communities of color, so police can focus on stopping the real ones crimes.

We are confident that when the five-week session ended on March 4, three days ahead of schedule, we will put Oregon’s recovery back on track. We know Oregonians want results, not partisanship. The work we have done in this session will address immediate needs, while setting the stage for the longer-term work we will come back to do in future sessions.

Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) is president of Oregon House; Julie Fahey (D-West Eugene/Junction City) is the House Majority Leader for the Oregon House


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