Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Now that my children are in school, the memories of the first few weeks after bringing them home from the hospital are somewhat hazy. But I know that having that time to recover from childbirth and learn the ropes of feeding, bathing and taking care of a new little person was invaluable. That's why I'm proud that Multnomah County recently adopted a policy granting our employees six weeks of paid parental leave.

This new policy will make kids healthier and will allow mothers and fathers to develop meaningful bonds with their child at a critical stage in their new baby's life.

In a recent survey of our employees, we found that women were taking an average of six weeks of unpaid leave to stay home with a new baby. Given that women are increasingly the primary breadwinners for their families, just a few days without an income can really hurt.

This new policy will also help Multnomah County as an employer. In order to reduce the gender and racial disparities in our workforce, ensure that our workforce reflects our community and compete with other employers for the most talented employees, we must have policies in place that attract the best and the brightest.

Providing these benefits is an upfront investment in our workforce that will pay dividends in the long run, helping us recruit and maintain the workforce we need to do the important work the county is responsible for.

Many employers know the benefits outweigh the costs of paid parental leave, which is why Intel and Nike along with smaller businesses like Laughing Planet provide paid leave to their workers.

As the government entity charged with helping those in need, it is Multnomah County's duty to lead on policies that make things better for working families. I'm proud that we are joining other employers who offer these important benefits and hope it encourages more employers to do the same.

Sincerely,

Deborah Kafoury

​Multnomah County, City of Portland commit $30 million to address homelessness and housing

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announce a $30 million commitment to "A Home For Everyone," the community partnership between the cities of Portland and Gresham, Multnomah County, the federal government and community and business partners including Home Forward and Meyer Memorial Trust.

The pledge -- $10 million from the county and $20 million from the city -- will go toward a series of investments to fund shelter beds for women and families, new affordable housing units and housing for people facing mental health issues. Also funded will be protections for people facing housing instability because the cost to rent is rising so fast.

"A crisis needs a plan," said Chair Kafoury. "This investment from the city and county will change the lives of people who will sleep on our streets every night."
 

Read full article here.

County releases 2014 report on deaths among people experiencing homelessness

On Oct. 16 Multnomah County released the fourth "Domicile Unknown" report. The Health Department's annual review of homeless deaths finds that 56 people died on the streets in 2014.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner and the Multnomah County Medical Examiners are responsible for investigating all sudden, unexpected, violent, suspicious or unattended deaths. Since 2011, the Multnomah County Health Department has worked with the medical examiners to capture those cases in which people were likely homeless.

The "Domicile Unknown" analysis was launched through a collaboration between Chair Kafoury and the Street Roots Community Newspaper. The report is intended to identify areas where resources and policies can be directed to save lives.

The lack of affordable local housing, the opiate epidemic and the persistent challenges of mental illness and addiction are contributing causes of deaths that could otherwise be prevented, said Chair Kafoury.

"The numbers leave no doubt," said Chair Kafoury. "Housing is a matter of life and death."

Read full article here.

Students tell commissioners to regulate tobacco retailers, consider age and space limits

Amira Spears-Hardy addresses the board on Tuesday evening.
Amira Spears-Hardy addresses the board at a public hearing on a Tuesday evening.

Middle and high school students told the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday evening that too many fellow students use tobacco.

At an Oct. 20 public hearing at David Douglas High School -- the second hearing of the day - students told commissioners that they supported licensing tobacco retailers.

But they also supported raising the legal age for smoking and asked the board to consider banning flavored tobacco and created more tobacco-free retail areas around schools.

"I've started seeing what they do to make kids more interested in tobacco, said Montre Harris, an eighth grader at Ron Russell Middle School. "Like putting in flavor and making the colors bright so they can see it and it smells good."

The Board of County Commissioners is considering action to license tobacco retailers.

The rate of illegal sales of tobacco to minors in Multnomah County is triple the national rate according to the most recent Synar studies by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Licensure laws have been effective at limiting illegal youth access to tobacco products.

Read full article here.

Board proclaims Oct. 12 as Indigenous People's Day

Fish Martinez performs a hand drum song in honor of Indigenous People’s Day.

Noting the vast and vibrant contributions of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives to Multnomah County, The Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted a proclamation Thursday marking the second Monday in October as Indigenous People's Day.

Indigenous People's Day will replace what is known nationally as Columbus Day, though the state of Oregon does not recognize the federal holiday.

"Reclaiming the second Monday in October as Indigenous People's Day makes a powerful statement," Chair Kafoury said. "It says, 'We are no longer going to celebrate a time of genocide, but instead we will honor the land we live on and the people who have been here since the beginning."

Read full article here.

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