Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today announced key provisions in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations committee bill that will help Oregon communities. The bill was voted out of committee today.
“I joined the Senate Appropriations Committee so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making,” Merkley said. “This bill is a rejection of the Trump budget that would have gutted programs vital to both rural and urban Oregon. This bill provides funding to programs that will help address some of Oregon’s most pressing issues — transportation infrastructure, housing affordability, and homelessness.”
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.
Key transportation appropriations that will impact Oregon include:
Capital Investment Grant Programs: The bill provides $2.141 billion for the program, which provides funding for major transit investments like the Portland-Milwaukie light rail line. Lane Transit in Lane County will apply for grants to improve and expand its district’s railway system. Merkley also successfully fought for report language directing the Secretary of Transportation to continue to advance existing projects, helping to ensure the administration continues to move projects forward, and does not stall the awarding of grants.
TIGER Grants: The bill increases TIGER investments by $50 million to $550 million. This critical transportation grants program, which the Trump budget zeroed out, has helped fund projects like the Coos Bay Rail Link. The increased investment could help fund transportation projects across the state — from bridge repairs in Springfield to sidewalks and bike lanes in Tigard.
Essential Air Service and Contract Towers: The bill provides $274 million for the Essential Air Service, which will continue to support flights between the City of Pendleton and Portland International Airport. This is a vital connection for Pendleton and Eastern Oregon, supporting economic development in the region. Additionally, the bill funds FAA Contract Towers at $162 million, which is a $3 million increase. There are six contract towers throughout Oregon, and the funding ensures their continued operation in the coming year.
Key housing appropriations that will benefit Oregon include:
Affordable Housing: The bill increases affordable housing investments for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable people — low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. The bill provides $19.4 billion to renew rental assistance for 2.2 million low-income households, which is $1.025 billion more than the previous fiscal year. The elderly housing program received $70.6 million more, funded at $573 million. And programs to help house people with disabilities and families preserved their funding, at $147 million and $75 million, respectively.
The bill also preserves $950 million for the HOME Investment Partnership Program that awards grants to fund building, buying, and rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership, and also provides direct rental assistance to low-income people.
Merkley also successfully included report language to encourage HUD to allow grantees to utilize local rent surveys to determine fair market rents. 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. HUD will be required to submit a report within 90 days proposing improvements to the Fair Market Rent formula that is wreaking havoc on states like Oregon that are experiencing fast-rising rents.
Rural Housing: The bill preserves funding for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) and Rural Capacity Building Program, at $10 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. Merkley heard from residents in Oregon’s most rural counties that this is a significant need.
Key elements of the bill that will affect homelessness in Oregon include:
Homeless Assistance Grants: The bill increases these grants by $73 million to $2.4 billion to help address the nation’s and Oregon’s homeless crisis. This includes set-asides for rapid rehousing for Victims of Domestic Violence ($25 million); for homeless youth ($55 million); and for Emergency Solutions Grants ($270 million), which helps support street outreach, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing assistance.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness: The bill provides $3.6 million for the federal homelessness coordinating agency to maintain current operating levels. Merkley also successfully included language to eliminate the sunset date, so the agency can continue to develop and implement the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
The next steps would be for the bill to be sent to the Senate floor for a full Senate vote, and eventually to be merged with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.