Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced she’s pushing a $200 million economic recovery package in the upcoming short legislative session that will put racial justice at the forefront of the state’s efforts to bolster its workforce.

Speaking in front of hundreds of attendees at the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit 2021 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland Monday, Brown said that she’s working with some of the state’s business leaders on proposed legislation for the February 2022 session.

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“Welcome back, Oregon,” says Gov. Kate Brown during the Reopening Oregon Celebration held at Providence Park in Portland, Ore., June 30, 2021.

“Welcome back, Oregon,” says Gov. Kate Brown during the Reopening Oregon Celebration held at Providence Park in Portland, Ore., June 30, 2021.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

The goal, Brown said, is to remove barriers to Oregon’s workforce for historically underserved communities including those reentering the workforce following incarceration and young people who aren’t connected to job programs.

“I think it’s absolutely imperative that we keep racial justice at the forefront of our recovery efforts,” Brown said. “That particularly is around workforce training.”

According to Brown, the state’s Racial Justice Council — chaired by Marin Arreola, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, Inc., and Patsy Richards, director at Long-Term CareWorks and a senior staff member at RISE Partnerships — is taking a leading role in developing that legislation.

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Brown called upon the state’s business community to get behind the package and have their voices heard by local representatives in Salem.

Speaking for only about 12 minutes at Monday’s summit, Brown didn’t reveal many specifics about the program but did divulge that one of the three pillars comprising the package would focus on opportunities to diversify Oregon’s healthcare workforce.

Brown responded to a question regarding what she envisions for Oregon in 2030.

She circled back to racial justice, saying it should remain at the forefront of discussions regarding where Oregon is headed. Brown said those conversations should grow beyond diversity, equity and inclusion work toward transformative culture change throughout the state’s jobs sector.

Brown said that climate change will also play a role in the road ahead for Oregon, praising the work of companies such as Daimler Trucks North America for the work it has done in promoting vehicle electrification through building charging infrastructure.

The Governor also gave a quick pitch to attendees on the upcoming special session to address the state’s ailing rent assistance program and prevention of a mass eviction crisis.

Brown said she’s proud of the “bipartisan” work the Legislature has done so far around housing and hopes to see more progress in the near future toward solving the state’s housing crisis.

“I’m optimistic around a package for next week that will enable us to keep Oregonians in their homes, but this is a huge challenge for Oregon,” she said. “We have to continue to make these significant investments. We have to make sure that the policies that we’ve implemented are working, and if they’re not, we have to change them and move quickly.”

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