During a global health crisis that has forced most governments to rein in their spending, Multnomah County pulled off a rare feat Thursday: Chair Deborah Kafoury released the largest budget a leader for the county has ever crafted.
The sweeping $2.81 billion budget, the biggest in county history according to Kafoury, includes funding from four new revenue streams:
- Nearly $80 million came available from the American Rescue Plan, a federal coronavirus relief bill passed in March.
- Voters passed the homeless services measure, introduced by regional government Metro in May, which is anticipated to bring in $52 million for the county to use over the next fiscal year.
- The Preschool for All ballot measure passed in November is expected to make $60 million available for use in the next fiscal year to provide tuition-free preschool.
- Voters also passed a bond measure to raise $387 million to overhaul the county’s library system.
It is the most money the county has ever had available — a 37% increase over last year’s budget. Kafoury called four hefty revenue streams coming to the county a “once in a generation” event.
“It’s not just a small one-off,” she said. “Each individual one is a game changer.”
The proposed budget — nearly 1,600 pages spread over two volumes — provides a blueprint for these new sources. Here’s some of where the county chair wants to see them go.
The American Rescue Plan Act allocated $157 million to Multnomah County, which must be spent by 2024. The county has just under $79 million to use in the next fiscal year.
The bulk of this — approximately $60 million — would go directly to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 with tens of millions going to efforts including contact tracing, investigating cases, testing and vaccination, according to the proposed budget.
Citing far reaching effects from the pandemic, Kafoury also recommended some of this funding be used to mitigate the impacts of the public health crisis, such as a rise in gun violence and an uptick in evictions.
The state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of June and city and county leaders are expecting a dramatic increase in evictions to occur when it does. The proposed budget puts $816,000 toward providing a legal defense for tenants in eviction proceedings. This would fund positions for two attorneys and a paralegal.
The budget also puts new money towards slowing the sharp increase in gun violence the region has seen in the past year. The budget would put $2.7 million toward gun violence prevention and intervention efforts, including expanding the Habilitation Empowerment Accountability Therapy program, which works with Black women involved in the criminal justice system, and the Gun Violence Behavioral Health Response Team, which “will provide mental health consultants and peers to work with gun- and gang-impacted youth and families,” according to budget documents.
Metro service measure:
The budget includes a plan for initial investments from the homeless services measure voters passed in May.
This year, with the program still in its infancy, officials estimate the tax will bring in $52 million to Multnomah County. The money is all meant to go towards pursuits that will assist with supportive housing — affordable housing with services on site to prevent tenants from falling back into homelessness such as job training, addiction treatment, and mental health care.
The proposed budget includes millions for rent assistance, alternative shelter options, employment opportunities, and helping with placements out of emergency shelters. Among other investments, the chair is recommending $3.7 million go to rent assistance and wraparound services, $2.45 million for navigation teams, and $3 million to grow existing behavioral health programs.
In a news release, the county estimated the budget recommendations could help house 1,300 households experiencing homelessness and prevent 1,000 at-risk households remain in their home.
County commissioners are expected to weigh in on the budget over the course of a work session and two public hearings before voting on June 3.