PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Oregon Department of Human Services announced Wednesday that it is providing $7 million in grant funds, equipment and other assistance to support clean air and cooling and warming shelters in communities ahead of the 2022 wildfire season.
The money will go to local governments, public education providers and Tribal Nations. The grants will also be used for warming shelters.
The $7 million are the result of two bills passed by Oregon lawmakers in 2021 and 2021.
Senate Bill 726 provides $5 million in grant funds and equipment to support cleaner air spaces for emergency purposes, such as when wildfire smoke makes breathing difficult. It passed in 2021.
Senate Bill 1536 passed in 2022 and provides $2 million to support cooling, warming and cleaner air spaces for when extreme weather or wildfire creates unhealthy conditions for people.
“Many Oregon communities were blanketed with wildfire smoke over the last several years that caused unhealthy conditions for people with breathing problems,” said Ed Flick, director of the ODHS Office of Resilience and Emergency Management. “People living in homes without adequate air filtration and the houseless were unable to escape this unhealthy air.”
Flick said this legislative funding will help provide safe spaces during wildfire smoke events and is an important step toward keeping Oregonians safe during extreme weather events.
In June 2021, a heat wave that sent temperatures soaring to 116 degrees in the Portland metro area left 96 people dead from hyperthermia, according to records the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office sent to KOIN 6 News.
Governments or agencies awarded grant money can use it for initial program startup costs; the purchase, installation or improvement of air filtration systems; or the setup or improvement or warming, cooling and cleaner air spaces.
Local governments, public education providers and Tribal Nations can apply to receive support online. ODHS says it will contact applicants as quickly as possible.