NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County Board OKs remaining allocations in plan to address Supportive Housing Services underspending

September 7, 2023

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners today approved $17.6 million in one-time funding for new shelter sites, workforce supports for service providers, rent assistance, and employment programming — finalizing investments outlined in an administrative corrective action plan to address underspending of Supportive Housing Services dollars.

Metro initiated the $58.1 million plan in May 2023 after the Joint Office of Homeless Services reported Supportive Housing Services spending had fallen significantly off target over the first three quarters of Fiscal Year 2023.

Even before the plan was in place, the pace of resources reaching the community — allowing the Joint Office to serve more people either experiencing or at risk of homelessness — increased significantly in the fourth quarter. That progress left a smaller amount of funding for the corrective action plan than originally anticipated.

Beyond a series of planned investments, the corrective action plan includes performance targets and reporting requirements for the remainder of money that was budgeted for the 2022-23 fiscal year, but went unspent.

The Board in June approved about $40.5 million as part of the County’s FY2024 budget. The Board today considered how to spend the remaining $17.6 million in the plan.

Thursday’s 4-1 vote followed a series of three public work sessions and briefings since July 20  that gave commissioners and the community a chance to weigh in. Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Commissioners Susheela Jayapal, Julia Brim-Edwards and Lori Stegmann voted to approve the allocations. Commissioner Sharon Meieran voted no. 

“I want to thank my fellow commissioners for engaging in process discussions that have been productive and in service to communities who need and deserve our investment,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “I’m glad we’ve continued to take time as a board to listen, discuss, query, question and think through our strategy collaboratively — and that the end result includes legislative action on this administrative plan.”

The $17.6 million approved today includes:

The Joint Office also provided outcomes metrics for each of those investments.

Commissioner Brim-Edwards said: “This action incorporates greater transparency, both with the Board and the community. It’s going to allow us to take necessary steps to evaluate whether our investments are doing what we intended them to do, and whether we should double down or modify and do something differently. It’s an important milestone.”

Commissioner Stegmann said: “What’s really exciting is, really, we’ve never been so united as jurisdictions, as a community, as a business community, as nonprofits, and as providers. This is an important moment in time for us to recognize.

“We are working side-by-side with the City of Portland. We have listened to our community, and we will continue to do that, working in partnership with anybody who wants to move forward and has significant solutions for how we address homelessness.”

Commissioner Jayapal said: “One of the main reasons we have underspent funds is that our nonprofit providers have not been able to hire and retain the staff they need to provide the services we contract with them for — so the community capacity grants are a clear priority.” 

“There are without a doubt any number of system issues that need to be improved. We can’t stop in order to wait to put the ideal systems into place. I always appreciate my colleagues’ comments. I think we’ve gotten to a better place on this as a consequence of all of our participation. And I appreciate the Chair and the Chair’s office in your leadership to get us here.”

Commissioner Meieran criticized the overall corrective action plan process for not providing the Board with more input earlier in negotiations. Under that process, approved by the Board as part of the County’s contract with Metro, a designee from the Chair’s office is tasked with negotiating an administrative plan with Metro, with the Board retaining its authority to approve any allocations included in the plan. 

She also said that although she supports the goals of the allocations approved today — including shelter expansion, housing assistance, and workforce supports for frontline workers — she questioned the metrics and details attached to the investments and whether they will actually deliver on the outcomes promised. 

“I truly support the organizations, and we need to create the systems in which they function most effectively and where they can be supported and get the money they need to invest most effectively in their people and organizations,” Commissioner Meieran said. 

“I believe the [corrective action plan] as written is flawed. It’s about spending funds as quickly as possible, which is the way it’s always been, rather than a plan for responsibly using taxpayer dollars.”

The Board will continue an ongoing discussion on the related — but separate question — of how to spend the greater-than-forecasted Supportive Housing Services revenue collected by Metro last year. Metro estimates Multnomah County’s share of those one-time dollars will be close to $50 million.