Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury released her eighth and final Executive Budget today, a sweeping $3.3 billion plan to support the community through the next phase of COVID-19, address decades of infrastructure disinvestment, and transform clients’ and community members’ lives through equity-centered, community-based solutions.
The Chair’s proposed 2023 budget is the third she has prepared amid the historic social and economic upheaval – and the deaths of nearly 1,200 residents – caused by COVID-19. It renews the County’s deep commitment to the lifesaving work of public health and a suite of essential safety net programs that provide shelter and housing, behavioral healthcare and culturally specific wraparound services.
And it expands the County’s response to lingering COVID-19 impacts, supporting children returning to school, older adults, those experiencing domestic and sexual violence, and those impacted by increased gun violence. The budget also elevates one of the pandemic’s clearest lessons: that community coalitions and culturally specific partnerships are central to addressing inequities and helping the region recover and thrive.
“This Executive Budget preserves the tools that we need as we transition beyond the pandemic,’’ Chair Kafoury said. “But more than any budget we have worked on before, the 2023 Executive Budget moves us closer to being a community that is stronger, more resilient and more equitable for everyone.”
The Board of Commissioners voted today, Thursday, May 5, 2022, to accept the Chair’s proposed budget, a step that launches the public budget process that includes six weeks of work sessions and public hearings until a final budget is adopted June 16, 2022.
A rare budget, and an opportunity to push past ‘business as usual’
For much of the past two decades, shrinking budgets year after year required the County to cut staff and services, and defer capital projects and infrastructure maintenance. This year, largely because of property tax revenue increases from the termination of several large Urban Renewal Areas in the City of Portland, County departments can begin to stabilize and make new investments.
In addition, better-than-expected Business Income Tax revenue contributed to an unusually large infusion of one-time-only resources. The County also received its second federal American Rescue Plan allocation – flexible funding that can be spent on the COVID-19 response, stabilize households and businesses, and address systemic public health and economic challenges.
But in deploying these new resources, Chair Kafoury cautioned staff that the improved financial picture cannot mean business-as-usual. She directed staff to develop an equity-driven response to community needs and propose longer-term strategies for transformation.
“Taken together, the investments in this FY 2023 Executive Budget can help move and empower the people we serve from a space of crisis and survival, to a place of healing, opportunity and thriving,’’ Chair Kafoury said.
Record efforts to meet the housing emergency head on
Housing instability, homelessness and behavioral health needs are interconnected crises that require comprehensive and coordinated action. The Chair’s Executive Budget invests a record $183.2 million into a cross-departmental County response. This effort — $107.1 million from the Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure and $76.1 million in local, state and federal funding — will expand successful programs and launch new interventions.
Of the Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure funds, $27.3 million will help support more than 2,000 year-round beds in shelters. This includes congregate shelter, motel rooms, and alternative settings such as villages. Including COVID-related shelters and federal funding for other shelter programs, that number would grow to nearly 2,700, almost double what was available before the pandemic.
Another $75.9 million will go toward housing placements, rent assistance and support services that permanently end people’s homelessness, helping them leave Multnomah County’s shelters or avoid them altogether by leaving the streets. Case management and rent assistance will help over 1,450 additional people move into and retain housing, and support more than 1,700 units of supportive housing for adults and families escaping chronic homelessness.
And the Executive Budget smartly draws from federal emergency funds efforts to keep people from losing their homes in the first place.
“We know that two years of job losses and business closures have pushed thousands of people to the brink,’’ Chair Kafoury said. “So we’re directing $22.8 million of American Rescue Plan funds to help people with their rent, and give them access to eviction prevention legal services.”
Expanding behavioral health services as new Resource Center opens downtown
The Executive Budget also addresses the intersection of behavioral health and homelessness with $15.5 million in new and expanded services.
This fall, the County will open the Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland. The center, the first of its kind in the community, will offer a drop-in day center, behavioral health shelter beds, bridge housing and multiple peer-led services.
The Chair’s budget also funds a pilot program, built from a data-driven research project, that provides permanent supportive housing for up to 50 people experiencing homelessness who have been identified as frequent users of the homeless services, emergency healthcare and criminal justice systems.
And, the budget increases funding for a program that connects people experiencing homelessness with substance use disorders to treatment, detox and recovery services, with a focus on culturally specific care coordination for African American, Latinx and LGBTQIA2S+ clients.
The budget also seeds other significant improvements in the behavioral healthcare system. Since the closure of the city of Portland’s sobering center in 2020, the County has joined multiple jurisdictions and agencies to develop a better triage system and response when someone is experiencing a behavioral health or substance use crisis. Thanks to new funding in the Chair’s budget, the County will be able to assume a leading role in developing what’s called the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network (BHECN).
The Chair also proposes expanding mental health services for children and young adults by adding case management to grades K-12 across the County’s school-based health system.
And, knowing that people in recovery benefit from peer support, the Chair is calling for investments in culturally specific peer services, helping people in the BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ communities with high behavioral health needs.
Addressing community violence
Over the last two years, the City of Portland, like many communities across the country, has seen a dramatic increase in gun and community violence. Last year, the Chair directed American Rescue Plan funds toward several new community efforts so Multnomah County can do its part and support its regional partners.
The 2023 budget maintains that work for the long-term, moving it from one-time-only funding to ongoing.
The budget also funds a partnership with a community-based program to engage young Black men in civic education and open up pathways to paid work experience in public service.
It provides for a new pilot that will use stipends to help people on supervision, and people committing acts of gun violence, so they can build economic stability that steers them away from the feeling that they need to participate in dangerous behaviors.
To coordinate these efforts, the Chair is creating a new position housed in the region’s Local Public Safety Coordinating Council to work across County departments and with external agencies to monitor, track and coordinate new and ongoing efforts to reduce violence.
Building climate resilience
Over the last several years, Multnomah County has experienced life-threatening heat waves, bouts of dangerous cold, raging wildfires and toxic air. The 2023 budget directs resources to help community members who are most at risk of climate-related harms.
These new investments include:
- A community-driven feasibility assessment on the services and physical infrastructure needed in East County to increase community resilience during climate events and natural disasters.
- A program to replace wood stoves with heat pumps, work that will improve the health of the people living in those homes, by providing better heating and improved air quality.
- A pilot program in East County to provide portable air conditioners to 1,000 households who are unable to afford one or who lack the necessary transportation to secure one, or can’t get help from their landlord. The city of Portland is expected to extend the same in Portland. The program will also provide 8,000 to 10,000 cooling kits to people who have emergency needs during a heat wave.
- A climate resilience coordinator position to develop longer-term policies to prepare and respond to climate change.
Implementing ballot measures
The Chair’s budget also builds on the foundation Multnomah County created during the 2021-22 fiscal year to ensure that voter-approved ballot measures can deliver the results people expect.
Preschool for All, housed in the County’s new Preschool and Early Learning Division, takes a two-generation approach to supporting children and working parents, especially mothers who have dropped out of the workforce to take care of their young children.
The first Preschool for All slots will open this September and serve more than 600 children with high-quality, culturally responsive, inclusive preschool from 36 providers across 48 locations.
In addition to implementing the program, this budget increases the number of Early Childhood mental health consultants who can provide a comprehensive continuum of culturally relevant and responsive mental health services to children and their families in Preschool for All sites.
The Chair also set aside resources to support facilities and workforce development to ensure there are enough early educators and preschool spaces to provide universal access.
The $387 million Multnomah County Library capital bond approved by voters in 2020 will allow the renovation and expansion of several libraries and construction of a new flagship library in East County. A new Library Operations Center, in East Portland, is the first project in the bond program, with construction set to start in early FY 2023.
Other projects expected to begin in FY 2023:
- A 21,000-square-foot Holgate Library, built on its existing site.
- A renovation at Midland Library, adding nearly 6,000-square-feet.
- A 42,000-square-foot Albina Library, built on its existing site.
- A renovation and expansion at North Portland Library, adding 8,700-square-feet, along with and a 1,500-square-foot addition.
investing in good governance
The Chair’s budget also invests in ways that ensure the County remains a high-performing and accountable government organization. Investments include:
- New equity staffing within the Department of Community Justice, District Attorney’s Office and Department of Community Services, as well as a new Complaints Investigation Unit position.
- Three new full-time positions in the Elections Division to meet a nearly 50% increase in voter registration in the last 10 years.
- Four new staff auditors so the Auditor’s Office can keep pace with Multnomah County government’s growing complexity and scope.
- $15 million to a strategic capital fund that will help the County secure new properties that can be used to strengthen our responses to the homelessness and behavioral health crises. These projects may include spaces for shelter, day centers or treatment, motels, shared housing and other strategic real property investments — all of which are long-term investments that will help us better serve vulnerable neighbors.
- $2 million improvements to the Rockwood Health Center and $3.2 million to upgrade the Juvenile Detention Center.
Public invited to participate
Today’s action by the Board of Commissioners to accept the budget is a technical step necessary to begin six weeks of budget presentations and three public hearings before the final vote June 16, 2022.
Budget Director Christian Elkin said members of the public can find dates and access links to the budget worksessions, which begin next week, and three virtual public hearings each beginning at 6 p.m.: Wednesday, May 16; Wednesday, May 25; and Wednesday, June 1, 2022. All budget documents are online here.