In a contentious meeting of the Legislature's Emergency Board on Friday, two members of the House, state Reps. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland) and Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland), asked for $65 million for "Project Turnkey," a new program that would buy distressed hotel and motel properties around the state.
California has already begun work on a similar program, funded with $600 million.
The idea, as WW first reported earlier this week, is to meet the emergency shelter needs of thousands of displaced people by purchasing, rather than renting, properties while hotel and motel prices are depressed by COVID-19-related travel slowdowns. State officials estimate after this year's wildfires that 10,000 more Oregonians will be seeking shelter beds than there is capacity.
The two state reps hoped to purchase about 1,000 rooms to house people displaced by COVID-19 and wildfires, as well as people who have no place to live for other reasons.
The Emergency Board, which typically makes relatively mundane financial tweaks between regular sessions of the Legislature, has been called on this year to allocate massive COVID-19 relief, as well as adjust other spending decisions and respond to pleas for help from around the state.
Wildfires have affected both blue and red areas of the state, so lawmakers could find bipartisan support for the former proposal—but not the latter.
Project Turnkey for fire-affected counties will move forward with the Oregon Community Foundation as the fiscal agent and nonprofits with previous experience operating shelters competing to run the properties.