Metro homeless measure supporters announce deal
A breakthrough funding agreement to raise $250 million per year for homeless services was announced Friday afternoon, Feb. 21, by regional elected officials, social service providers, and business representatives.
The agreement followed unexpected confusion over revenue estimates for a measure being considered by Metro for the May 2019 primary election ballot earlier this week. The newly announced agreement is intended to fund a program to significantly reduce homelessness in the greater Portland region.
The Metro Council has scheduled a hearing on it for Tuesday, Feb. 25. A previous deal collapsed with revenue estimates fell from $250 million to $175 million, and then to $135 million.
The new agreement includes a 1% tax on personal incomes over $125,000 per year for individuals and $250,000 per year for couples, along with a business income tax for regional businesses that would exempt small business. Combined, the funding mechanism options are targeted to raise $250 million per year, and would prioritize services for people currently experiencing chronic homelessness, as well as preventative services for community members most at risk of becoming homeless.
The spending is based on a request from the HereTogether advocacy organization, which developed a framework over the past two years. The framework prioritizes equity and also includes accountability measures, such as annual audits, a cap on administrative overhead, and an oversight committee that represents a multitude of voices from our regional community.
The measure would require voter reapproval after 10 years.
The Metro Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed agreement at a special meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Additional details on the funding mechanism options and measure language will be posted on the Metro website in advance of Tuesday's meeting.
Statements from regional partners
"This groundbreaking agreement makes it clear — everyone agrees that this issue is urgent and solvable," said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. "Through a marginal tax on high income earners, and a small tax on businesses that exempts small business, we can, and will, pay for the services needed to meaningfully address homelessness in greater Portland."
"This is what happens when we remain committed to coming together instead of letting things fall apart when it gets tough," said Katrina Holland, HereTogether Advisory Committee chair, and Executive Director of JOIN. "We know what works to address this issue, and we only needed commitment to scale up what works. Now, we know how we're going to make it happen."
"This agreement represents countless hours of active engagement by our region's leaders and provides a more resilient, progressive funding mechanism so that the measure does what it's drafted to do — help those who need it most," said Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of Portland Business Alliance.
"It is a rare moment when leaders from the region come together in a unified voice. We found that voice today and I look forward to our community's future success in preventing and reducing homelessness." said Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard.
"Today's historic agreement sets the table for an unprecedented — and compassionate — regional response to homelessness. The challenge before us cuts across county lines and city limits, and demands we come together to act. We now have total agreement on that response," said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
"If we don't pass this funding measure, our region will forever lose what's always made us so special," said Kathryn Harrington, Chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners. "This initiative will raise the funds we need in order to make an impactful change on this crisis. As a former Metro Councilor, I am confident that Metro's track record of efficient, prudent management and effective oversight will ensure that this measure will be effective at helping those most in need."
"This is a historic moment where different branches of government, businesses, service providers and advocates have come together to partner on alleviating one of the biggest crises of our time: homelessness. No city, county, region, or state can do this work alone. By coming together, we send this message to our most vulnerable neighbors: you're not alone in your journey, we're here to help," said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
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