August 1, 2020

For the most up-to-date information about Multnomah County's COVID-19 response, please check our COVID-19 website, and the County’s Twitter and Facebook channels, often. You can also contact my office if you have any other questions.

Dear friends and neighbors, 

For far too many people in our community and across the country, seeing the first day of the month fast approaching comes with the worry that they won’t be able to pay their rent and risk being evicted. Millions more have been introduced to that fear during the economic fallout brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

To be sure, there have been several modest efforts to keep people housed during this public health crisis. A federal stimulus check and enhanced federal unemployment insurance have provided cash to help millions of households pay their rent or mortgage, and weather financial hardships caused by cut hours and lost jobs. Federal, state and local eviction moratoriums have offered temporary security. 

But without further congressional action, even these small measures that barely help people pay for basic necessities will be at risk. 

Senate Republicans have put forward a new relief package that includes a second stimulus check but substantially cuts enhanced unemployment benefits. Their package also fails to include any rent relief or other housing protections — an unconscionable omission at a time when we need significant new resources to prevent a tidal wave of evictions as moratoriums expire across the country. In July, nearly a third of Americans were late on their housing payments, or didn’t make them at all, and without help, it will only get worse without assistance. 

In Oregon, our state legislators have ensured that our statewide eviction moratorium remains in effect. 

Oregonians cannot be evicted from their homes for nonpayment of rent or mortgage through at least September. And renters will have until March 31, 2021, to pay back any rent that’s owed. 

But even with the protections of Oregon’s eviction moratorium, this is undoubtedly an anxious and traumatic time. There’s no mistaking that thousands of Oregon households need financial assistance now and into the future to keep current on their rent or to pay back rent owed.

How to get rent assistance

While renters wait for the federal government to provide actual, meaningful rent relief, the state of Oregon has thankfully distributed $10 million in rent relief funds for Multnomah County residents.  

If you need help with your rent, head over to 211info.org/multco-rent to learn more. Only those who earn 80% or less of the median family income are eligible for this assistance.  

Because of high demand from so many community members worried about their housing, you may have to check 211’s site several times to see if their wait list is open or closed. When you do connect with 211, you’ll be able to tell an operator that you are interested in rent relief. A 211 staff member will process your application request, contact you back and refer you to a local agency that provides rental assistance that will help you complete your application.  

This process can take several weeks as staff work as quickly as they can to contact and process the applications of everyone in need. Multnomah County is also working with its partners to streamline this process, adding staff to help with intakes, while allocating even more funding for rent assistance. 

And while waiting to hear about the status of the rent relief you’ve requested can be difficult, please remember that for as long as the eviction moratorium remains active, you can’t lose your home because you can’t pay the rent. 

If you need help paying for other necessities like food and utilities, 211 can connect you to support.

What’s next?

Making sure everyone has housing during, and in the wake of, the pandemic is both a matter of public health and basic humanity. The need for rent assistance in our community extends far beyond what the State and local governments can provide. The next stimulus package Congress passes must include sufficient rental assistance. Without it, millions of households across the country are at greater and greater risk of losing their homes, getting sick or transmitting COVID-19 further.  

Contact your members of Congress to tell them you support meaningful and substantial housing protections now. As of Saturday morning, the Senate hasn't taken action to protect renters and homeowners. Both the HEROES Act and the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 (H.R. 7301) include eviction and foreclosure moratoriums; the HEROES Act includes both rental and mortgage assistance. They need to pass a bill that includes those measures now.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has made it simple for you to email or call your federal delegation here. Our local members of Congress understand what’s at stake, and share our urgency — but hearing from so many of you can help them press their case with all the rest of their colleagues who somehow still don’t grasp the moment. 

You can also spread the word about the rent assistance available for Multnomah County residents through 211 and share information about the eviction moratorium to anyone concerned about making rent.

Please stay safe and stay healthy,

Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair

COVID-19 Cases in Multnomah County

On Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that Multnomah County has been added to the Oregon Health Authority’s “watch list” of counties with high rates of cases of the virus that cannot be traced to a source, or “sporadic disease.”

Being added to the watch list is a wake-up call for all of us. We look forward to strengthening our efforts by working in conjunction with the State's additional support for testing and investigation, but our collective action can and will go a long way toward helping us slow the spread and bend our trajectory back to where we should be headed.

Please stay vigilant about wearing face coverings, practicing good hygiene, maintaining physical distance, staying close to home and limiting the size of your social circle.

These small steps make a big difference when everyone does their part. Let's do it for each other.