WASHINGTON, DC [02/14/2022] – Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici led members of Oregon’s congressional delegation – including Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and Kurt Schrader – in calling for additional emergency rental assistance funding to be sent to Oregon.
The letter to the Treasury Department supports a request made by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. Congress created the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in December 2020 to prevent families and individuals from being evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and President Biden’s American Rescue Plan extended the program. Oregon received $289 million from the two rounds of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding, but the state faces a shortfall in the wake of the omicron variant.
“Many working families in Oregon were already struggling with housing costs or covering rent before the pandemic upended their lives and our economy,” the members wrote. “Federal rental assistance has been a critical lifeline for them, and we must continue to make it available for people when they need it most.”
The members noted that Oregon Housing and Community Services projected that, despite historic investments using funds from the American Rescue Plan to deliver additional rental assistance, the state will not be able to meet the demand of both new applications and those that have already been submitted.
Throughout the pandemic, Bonamici has led several efforts to protect renters in Oregon and across the country. She previously led 66 of her colleagues in the House of Representatives in calling for an extension of federal eviction moratoria, and then she urged further protections and deployment of federal resources to stem a tide of potential evictions.
The full letter can be found here and below.
February 11, 2022
The Honorable Janet Yellen
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220
Dear Secretary Yellen,
We write today in strong support of Governor Brown’s letter reiterating Oregon’s request for additional Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program funding. Many working families in Oregon were already struggling with housing costs or covering rent before the pandemic upended their lives and our economy. Federal rental assistance has been a critical lifeline for them, and we must continue to make it available for people when they need it most. As the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) continues to distribute ERA funding through its reallocation authority, we urge you to support Governor Brown’s request and consider the clear need to increase the support available for Oregonians who are facing eviction.
Thank you for your commitment to rapidly deploying these resources to stave off what could have been a national wave of mass evictions. Treasury’s work has been essential to Oregonians who have received this funding. Now, as the Omicron variant is surging, the reallocation authority Congress provided under this program is critical to preventing another eviction crisis. Beyond the essential federal resources, Oregon has invested additional and historic levels of funding in rental assistance throughout the pandemic. In 2020, the Oregon State Legislature committed $200 million to compensate landlords and deliver rental assistance, and just last month the state of Oregon invested an additional $100 million.
Even with this supplemental state funding, there will still be many Oregonians who could be left behind in accessing rental assistance. Our state’s housing agency, Oregon Housing and Community Services, projects that the new state investment will not meet the demand of both new applications and those that have already been submitted. Although we are appreciative of the $1.1 million distributed to Oregon in the first tranche of reallocation funding, thousands of Oregonians are again facing eviction notices and are at even greater risk of experiencing homelessness. A spike in evictions would be especially dangerous to public health. Further, Portland State University’s Homeless Research and Action Center projected that evictions in Oregon could cost the state from $720 million up to $4.7 billion or more as people displaced from their homes would raise use of health, shelter, and child welfare services.
We appreciate the work by Treasury to distribute this funding and reduce evictions nationwide. To allow Oregonians the best chance at a safe and stable recovery, we want to reiterate our support of Governor Brown’s request to increase ERA reallocation funding to our state. We look forward to your response and our continued work together to prevent unnecessary evictions.