The City Council approved a plan to spend $6.3 million over five years to distribute and install 15,000 heat-pump cooling units in the homes of low-income, vulnerable Portlanders.
The money will come from the embattled Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund. PCEF, as it’s known, has already awarded $7 million to a non-profit firm called Earth Advantage Inc. to procure the heat pumps, and another $3 million for Earth Advantage to manage inventory and distribution of the machines for five years.
The new money will go to seven organizations that will identify households eligible for the pumps, then deliver and install them. Those organizations are Central City Concern, Northwest Housing Alternatives, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative, Reach CDC, African American Alliance for Homeownership, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, and Verde.
PCEF had originally awarded $11.5 million to Diversifying Energy to purchase the pumps. The City Council revoked the contract after The Oregonian reported that Diversifying Energy’s founder, Linda Woodley, had spent time in prison and had failed to pay taxes in three states. Woodley sued PCEF in March alleging defamation and denial of due process.
PCEF spokeswoman Magan Reed said the heat pumps had been ordered and that distribution will begin this summer. PCEF is pouring money into the program because summer heat is killing more people in the Northwest. Almost 100 people died in Oregon last June when Portland temperatures rocketed to a record 116 degrees.
“Portlanders need us to take accelerated, aggressive climate action rooted in racial and economic justice,” City Commissioner Carmen Rubio said in a statement. “This grant does that.”