By Sen. Doug Whitsett (Distr. 28)
Last week the Ways and Means General Government Subcommittee restored funding to two programs sponsored by the Department of Revenue that provide rent payment assistance to low income elderly Oregonians. Both programs had previously been eliminated in Governor Kitzhaber’s Recommended Budget. The combined programs provide critical funding for rent assistance payments for more than 5,000 elderly Oregonians.
Working closely with committee co-chairs Repr. Bill Garrard, Sen. Betsy Johnson (a Democrat from Scappoose), Repr. Nancy Nathanson (a Democrat from Eugene) and the other subcommittee members, we were able to restore nearly $6 million for statewide elderly rent relief. More than $700,000 of that funding will restore services for senior residents who live in the counties that comprise District 28.
The Elderly Rental Assistance Program provides about $400 in average annual rent assistance payments to nearly 3,000 of Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens. To be eligible participants must be at least 58 years of age and have annual household incomes less than $10,000. Eligibility for assistance further requires that they pay more than 20% of their household income for rent, fuel and utilities. If they are under 65 years of age they must have total assets valued at no more than $25,000 to be eligible for assistance.
Two hundred forty four of our most financially vulnerable elderly citizens who reside in the five counties located in Senate District 28 will receive a total of more than $150,000 during the next budget period as the result of restoring this program. That approximately fifty dollars per month rental assistance is very important to senior whose entire monthly income is less than $800 per month.
The Non-profit Homes for the Elderly Program provides property tax exemptions to private, non-profit corporations that provide permanent housing and care to elderly persons. Eligibility requires residents of the homes to be at least 62 years old and to have annual household incomes less than about $20,000 per couple. The tax exemption is claimed by the non-profit residence facility. In turn, the residents receive the value of the tax exemption in the form of a credit against their rent.
Ten non-profit residential homes provide about 400 rental units for low income seniors living in the five Senate District 28 counties. This program provides nearly $550,000 in rent relief for those senior residents during the two year budget period. On average the assistance for each rental unit is about $60 per month.
Our Ways and Means subcommittee withheld approval of the Department of Revenue budget for several weeks in our attempt to restore the eliminated funding. In the end, our bipartisan effort succeeded and the critical services to low-income seniors was restored.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon… no one will.