PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County health officials are urging people, even with a shorter heat event, to check in on their friends, family and neighbors, especially those who are older, live alone or don’t have air conditioning.
Last month, KOIN 6 News reported on the City of Portland’s free air conditioner program and asked officials why there was a delay in getting the taxpayer-funded ACs installed in low-income homes.
As of Wednesday, of the 3,000 units ordered, 2,200 have been installed.
“The budget that Multnomah County just passed included an additional 1,000 units for folks primarily in east Multnomah County. The City of Portland is also doing the same within city limits and then trying to get the word out all year round about what people can do to stay cool,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “It’s not going away we’re going to be experiencing this every year.”
Kafoury talked with KOIN 6 News at an event in Northeast Portland where the county was passing out cooling kits. KOIN 6 also learned that money from the 2023 budget will provide between 8,000-10,000 cooling kits next year, and that the $3.32 billion county budget will also pay for an assessment of heat islands in east county, to find out what’s needed to keep people who live there safe in future life-threatening heat waves.
Cooling kits have misting device and cooling towel and information on what to do and how to stay cool if you don’t have AC in your home.
Kafoury said money from the budget will buy 1,000 ACs. She also explained why more weren’t purchased.
“We also know that not everyone’s apartment is able to handle an air conditioning unit – some windows don’t work, some wiring is too old in people’s places there’s a lot of ways to work through that … we’re also ramping up this program, we’ve not done it in the past so we’ll build on it each year,” she said. “I think after the summer is over and we have time before we start preparing for our cold weather shelters, we will do some deep dives into looking at structural issues whether building codes need to be changed other ways that we can address what we know is going to be here with us to stay.”
The county will also reportedly invest $175,000 in a study into heat islands.