Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced critical investments in housing, health care, mental health, and education for Oregon families through FY23 Senate Appropriations bills.
“At a time when working families are struggling with rising prices on everything from rent to prescription drugs to gas and groceries, it’s critical that our nation prioritizes quality, affordable health care, housing, and education—and that’s exactly what these new funding bills do,” Merkley said. “The legislation includes significant investments in federal programs that support affordable housing, health care, research, and education, which will have a big impact for families across Oregon. This bill delivers in a big way for our state and the nation, and I’ll keep pushing to ensure 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.
Key elements to benefit Oregon families that Merkley fought to include in the funding bills include:
Affordable Housing: As rural and urban communities across Oregon continue to experience housing crises, the bill includes an increase for affordable housing programs for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable people—low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities, including $14.7 billion for housing unit specific rental assistance. The bill also protects funding for housing programs that benefit the elderly and people with disabilities.
Fair Market Rents: Building on significant positive fair market rent changes due to Merkley’s language in the fiscal year 2018 bill, the bill sets a 90-day timeline for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to find better ways to measure the fair and accurate cost of a rental unit. This is a significant step forward in the battle to address the affordable housing crisis by ensuring that vouchers keep pace with the real cost of rent in competitive rental markets.
Rural Housing: The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) and Rural Capacity Building Program received $17 million and $6 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.
HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing: The program received an additional $85 million to provide rental assistance vouchers for homeless veterans, along with case management and clinical services. This increase will provide an estimated 7,460 new rent vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness, and when combined with prior year appropriations and available unleased vouchers, has the potential to eliminate veteran homelessness based on the most recent complete data available. These vouchers have been critical to reducing veterans’ homelessness by 49 percent since 2010.
Homeless Assistance and Prevention: The bill includes $3.55billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, a $340 million increase that will benefit organizations across Oregon. Within that appropriation, rapid rehousing programs for victims of domestic violence received an additional $53 million; homeless youth programs received $107 million; and Emergency Solutions Grants—particularly important to the Portland metro area—received $290million to support street outreach, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing assistance.
HOME Investment Partnerships Program: The bill includes $1.725 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.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation: The program, also known as NeighborWorks America, received $170 million. The national nonprofit offers support for affordable housing and community development through public-private partnerships. President Trump’s proposal would have eliminated this program, crippling its six locations across Oregon.
Community Development: the bipartisan bill includes $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.
Nursing: The bill includes $318 million to support nurses in Oregon and across the country. Merkley led 40 senators in a letter to the committee leaders to push for an increase in federal funding for nursing workforce development programs.
Reproductive Health Care: The bill includes increases in funding for the full scope of reproductive health care programs, including nearly double funding for the Title X Family Planning Program and $130 million for teen pregnancy prevention.
Child and Maternal Health: The bill includes $1.25 billion for programs to improve maternal and child health, including $496 million to combat this country’s maternal mortality crisis and $25 million in new funding to increase training and support for Certified Nurse Midwives with a focus on practitioners working in rural and underserved communities.
Mental and Behavioral Health Care: The bill includes $1.42 billion for the Mental Health Block Grant to improve community mental health services in all 50 states. Oregon benefited from over $22 million in program funding in years prior. The bill includes an increase of $625 million for suicide prevention programs, including increased funding for the 9-8-8 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Medical Research: The bill includes a $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, totaling $48 billion in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other devastating diseases. The bill also includes funding to further research and provide a more comprehensive understanding of COVID-19, including susceptibility and long COVID.
Community Health Centers: The bill includes $1.92 billion in funding to support ongoing efforts to increase accessibility of medical services through community health centers. These centers serve a vital role in ensuring access to primary care for underserved communities.
Rebuilding our Public Health System: Bolstering our public health infrastructure is a matter of both public health and national security, and this bill includes a $2 billion increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address the current COVID-19 pandemic and respond to future public health challenges. The bill also includes flexible funding for federal agencies to assess and respond to monkeypox virus (MPV) in Oregon and nationwide.
Institute of Education Sciences: The bill includes $831million to support innovation, research, and evaluation in education, including evaluating strategies to combat learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. Merkley led 19 senators in a letter to the committee advocating for this investment.
Migrant Education: The bill includes over $59 million for programs for migrant students and seasonal farmworkers. Through this program, higher education and non-profit organizations can receive funding to give migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their children the opportunity to attend higher education or earn their GED. Oregon State University, Chemeketa Community College, Portland Community College, Treasure Valley Community College, and community-based organizations in Oregon receive funds through this program.
Accessible Education: The bill includes $15.3 billion, a $1.9 billion increase, for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state grants program, including funding to assist states in providing a free, appropriate education for children with disabilities and provide support services for over 7.6 million students nationwide.
Student Support: The bill includes $1.275 billion for TRIO, a suite of eight educational programs that supports students from first-generation college students and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds; as the first person in his family to go to college, Merkley knows firsthand the value of this type of support and has been a fierce advocate for the funding. The bill also includes a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award, the cornerstone of student financial aid, which would increase the total maximum Pell grant award to $7,395 for the 2023 – 2024 school year.
Career Training: The bill includes $2.2 billion, a $155 million increase, for Career, Technical and Adult Education, which supports the workforce and economy by training young people to fill in-demand, twenty-first century jobs.
Community Services Block Grants: The bill includes $770 million for the program which provides critical support for rural Oregon communities. Merkley led 30 senators in a letter to the committee pushing to preserve and increase funding for the program.
Community Service: The bill funds AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers at $105 million; Senior Corps programs at $240 million; and State AmeriCorps grants at $492million.
The next step for the bill is merging with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both chambers and signed into law.