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Multnomah County commissioners approve historic $2.82 billion budget

Priorities in the budget include $60 million in COVID-19 response and recovery and $34 million for preschool for all 3 and 4-year-olds.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury was happy with a unanimous vote on Thursday to approve the budget that covers a lot of ground. At $2.82 billion, it's 37% more money than last year's budget.

There is a lot more money coming in, including $78.9 million from the federal government's American Rescue Plan, and hundreds of millions more from three voter-approved measures.

One of the measures funds building and overhauling libraries to the tune of $387 million. A brand new flagship library will be built in underserved east county.

Other priorities in the budget include $60 million in COVID-19 response and recovery and $34 million for preschool for all 3 and 4-year-olds. There is also funding for homeless services and $52 million in new programming; increasing that budget item by more than 50-percent.

"This is a historical budget to address and end people's homelessness, the budget that we passed today invests more than $150 million in ending homelessness," said Kafoury.

The chair says the county will be able to do more of the things it knows works to get people living on the streets safe and housed.

"Continuing a partnership with the city of Portland, but also we're adding new housing new shelter behavioral health hygiene and outreach services."

Kafoury said the big increase for homeless services is in large part thanks to another targeted measure voters had the foresight to pass just over a year ago.

The money will be available July 1 and it will allow the county to do a lot of things, such as paying to get people into apartments.

"People who are chronically homeless the people you see on the streets today will be able to be in housing with services, in addition to opening up some new shelter beds for folks who cannot yet get into that housing."

Kafoury added that those who question this much spending should watch for results, and hold them accountable if they don't like the outcome. But she is expecting progress at a time when a pandemic, as hard as it's been, could be a catalyst for good in Multnomah County.

"It is just an opportunity to change lives of people in our community, this past year has been really tough and there is a lot of need," said Kafoury.

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