Senator Kayse Jama’s Legislative Newsletter 08/03/21 - Special Edition

Senator Jama

August E-Newsletter (Special Edition)

Senate District 24 rests on the traditional ancestral lands of the Multnomah, Wasco, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Cowlitz bands of Chinook, Talatin, Kalapuya, Molalla and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. As a former refugee from Africa, who now resides on this stolen land, I pledge to share in the struggle and fight for Native sovereignty, decolonization, and collective liberation alongside our Indigenous communities.

Senator Kayse Jama


1. Welcome

2. Reflection and Appreciation

3. Opportunity for All through Legislation

  • Affordable Housing
  • Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees
  • Education Equity
  • Healthcare Accessibility
  • Improving Community Safety
  • Environmental Justice

4. The American Rescue Plan Act's Senate District 24 Investments

5. Senator Jama in the News

6. Upcoming Events

7. World Refugee Day Celebration Recap

8. Closing Message


Salaam friends and neighbors,

After 6 months of intensive advocacy and legislative work, we have finally made it through our first session at the Oregon State Legislature. It has been an honor to be a first-time legislator in such an historic session. As our state and our nation continue to reckon with racial injustice, we faced the hardships of COVID-19, wildfires, ice storms, and other various challenges over the past year. As your Senator, it is imperative that I work with the community and my colleagues to address the needs of struggling Oregonians with strong legislation and resources to uplift our Senate District 24 and our state. 

As the first former refugee, Muslim and Somali-American to serve in Oregon Senate, I came to Salem with high hopes, knowing that my lived experience and my two decades of advocacy and organizing skills needed to be translated into real policy change, particularly for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), immigrants and refugees, low-income Oregonians, and rural communities. I also knew that Salem, and particularly the Senate, might welcome my fresh perspective but might also, at times, be challenged by an undaunted newcomer with a unique background. Along the way, I discovered incredible allies, sometimes in unexpected places, enabling us to pass groundbreaking new legislation. And we uncovered areas where Oregon must continue to make progress, including police accountability and campaign finance reform.



Being a change agent in an institution that is historically resistant to change requires patience and collaboration. That is why I focused on partnership as the cornerstone of my approach. I am grateful for the work of the Black, Indigenous, People of Color Caucus this session. Together, we delivered historic racial-justice-focused policy change by centering the experiences of our communities.

Before I dive into our legislative wins, I want to emphasize that nothing can be achieved in this session without the support of our amazing staff. One of the most important observations I made as a new member is how hard the staff work with so little recognition. And I mean all the staff who work in this building.

I am grateful to have worked alongside such an amazing team, and I want to recognize our former Chief of Staff, Lex Jakusovszky, who spearheaded setting up our office infrastructure, led our policy efforts, and hired and trained both staff and interns. I also want to thank our current Chief of Staff, Kien Truong, who came to Salem with amazing skills and enthusiasm. My sincere appreciation goes to our Legislative Assistant, Mira Karthik, who helped with constituency outreach and policy analysis in our office. I am likewise grateful for our interns Yusuf Arifin and Aria Morgan who went above and beyond to support the work of our office. Lastly, I'm appreciative of our Senate's Committee on Housing and Development’s nonpartisan Legislative Policy Analyst, Devin Edwards, whose expertise helped us to pass strong housing policy.


Throughout the session, I always centered racial equity while attempting to approach issues in ways that represent the needs of all Oregonians.

We delivered some of the most equity-focused policies and investments that Oregon has ever seen. Together, we prioritized and delivered on affordable housing, public safety and police reform, environmental justice, education equity, immigrant and refugee rights, economic opportunity and development, childcare infrastructure, healthcare access and affordability, mental and behavioral health, and cultural preservation and celebration. Here are just some of the bills that I’m proud to have led or supported. 

1. Affordable Housing

As Chair of the Senate’s Committee on Housing and Development and a strong advocate for affordable housing in Oregon, I focused on long-term strategies like housing stock availability and zoning changes while addressing the immediate, pressing issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic—a looming mortgage foreclosure and rent eviction cliff. I shepherded legislation focused on equitable housing practices, supported home-ownership programs, and introduced tenant protection measures. I want to show my appreciation for all members our Senate's Committee on Housing and Development. Thank you Vice Chair Senator Dennis Linthicum, Senator Dick Anderson, Senator Jeff Golden and Senator Deb Patterson for their leadership and collaboration.

Additionally, working alongside Speaker Tina Kotek, Representative Julie Fahey, Chair of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Housing, Representative Khanh Pham and many other partner organizations, I am proud of the bills we fought for, and the over $700 million we allocated to support affordable and stable housing in our state

Protecting Tenants (SB 282): Extends grace period for rent repayment so that tenants impacted by COVID-19 can take advantage of millions in federal and state rental assistance funds; locks credit reporting to ensure their inability to pay does not hurt tenants’ future economic prospects.

Preventing Evictions (SB 278): Requires landlords and courts to delay termination of residential tenancies for nonpayment for 60 days if documentation of application for rental assistance is provided, which ensures that we have some time to process the high volume of rental assistance program applications.

Racial Disparities at the intersectionality of Criminal Justice and Housing (SB 291): Makes it more difficult to screen out tenants due to an applicant’s arrest and conviction history, with the larger goal of trying to reduce existing racial disparities in Oregon housing.

Expanding Opportunities for Homeownership (SB 79): Addresses racial disparities in homeownership by providing grants and technical assistance to organizations aimed at increasing homeownership access to Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Preventing Foreclosures (HB 2009): Extends the foreclosure moratorium for residential properties. In addition to banning foreclosures, the law protects homeowners by ensuring that borrowers who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t considered in default, and funds owed to the lender are deferred to the loan’s maturity date.

• Establishing a Task Force on Homelessness and Racial Disparities (HB 2100): Address racial disparities and access to homeless services programs across the state and requires the Oregon Housing and Community Services to consult with specified entities in grant administration, and clarifies that eligible grantees must demonstrate culturally responsive services to best serve the needs of diverse client populations, including communities of color.

Individualized Assessment for Rental Application (SB 291): Modifies the criteria that a residential landlord may consider when screening an applicant and specifies where and how a landlord may – or may not – consider an applicant’s criminal history in evaluating an application for tenancy.

Addressing Home Loans Discriminations (HB 2007): Requires implicit bias training for mortgage loan originators.

• Establishing Homeowner ADU Pilot Program (HB 3335): Promotes safe, stable and affordable homes by creating a pilot program to construct accessory dwelling units for homeowners to lease to income-eligible tenants.

Allocating Over $700 Million for Oregon Housing Needs.

2. Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees

Being the first former refugee Senator in the Oregon legislature, I know firsthand how important it is to recognize and support refugees and immigrants in our state. We made some monumental strides throughout this session to support and advocate for legislation that promotes the wellbeing and prosperity of our vibrant immigrant and refugee communities. I look forward to seeing these bills implemented over the coming months, and to continuing the fight for immigrants and refugees in the short session.

Creating the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement (SB 778): The first piece of legislation I proposed was the creation of this new office, which will be tasked with collecting data on refugees and immigrants who are new to Oregon to better understand their needs and to track progress in reducing social, economic, and health disparities. Although the office won’t directly provide services, it will help coordinate strategies, convene stakeholders, and provide policy support to ensure our approaches truly advance opportunity for immigrants and refugees across Oregon. I want to thank Senator Rob Wagner, Senator Michael Dembrow, Representative Khanh Pham and the coalitions for pushing this bill through the finish line. 

Supporting Refugees (SB 718 - Funding was allocated through SB 5520): Allocates $4.3 million to fund extended case management for refugees and to provide them employment support services.

Protecting Immigrant and Refugee Oregonians and Ensuring Public Safety (HB 3265): Updates the Sanctuary Promise Act to protect immigrant and refugee communities and prioritize public safety by keeping local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities separate.

Removing Barriers to Care at Hospitals (HB 2360): Prohibits nonprofit hospitals from requiring patients to apply for medical assistance before screening for or providing financial assistance. This helps to reduce confusion, fear, and anxiety when our immigrant and refugee communities seek healthcare.

Celebrating and Uplifting Oregon’s Cultural Communities (HB 2914): Establishes April as Arab American Heritage Month to celebrate and honor the contributions of Arab American Oregonians.

3. Education Equity

The pandemic exacerbated an already huge lack of funding and resources for education in Oregon. It is so important to make sure that students feel safe, secure, and have sufficient access to the resources they need in order to thrive. I am proud to have supported these bills regarding education throughout this session, which includes not just general funding towards schools but steps to promote inclusivity for all students.

School Funding (SB 5514): Provides a record $9.3 billion budget to fund K-12 schools for the next two years.

Summer Learning (HB 5402): Invests $250 million (and additional $75 million in federal money) to make up gaps in students' pandemic-year with summer learning programs.

• Advancing equity-centered educational practices (SB 52): Creates an inclusive statewide education plan for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, nonbinary, or any other minority gender identity.

4. Healthcare Accessibility

Another important priority we supported throughout the legislative session was ensuring accessible and affordable healthcare to all in Oregon. While equitable healthcare has been a necessity for years, the pandemic truly heightened the consequences of inaccessibility for many. While we still have a way to go to ensure healthcare for all, the legislation we supported this session focused on removing barriers one may face while accessing healthcare. 

Cover All People (HB 3352)Expands healthcare coverage, affordability, and accessibility to cover low-income Oregonians regardless of their immigration status, including DACA recipients.

Equitable Access to Healthcare Services (HB 2359): Ensures health care providers have adequate and accessible interpretation services for limited-English Proficient patients and patients with hearing loss. 

Public Heath Funding (HB 5024): Funds $43.8 million for public health modernization, $121.4 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, $20 million for State Hospital Staffing, $31 million for State Hospital units in Junction City; $6.5 million for mobile response and stabilization and $5.7 million for interdisciplinary assessment teams.

5. Improving Community Safety

Building safe communities goes far beyond law enforcement and the criminal legal system. We’ve seen progress on police accountability, but it’s time to seriously invest in addressing the underlying systemic issues that result in behavior that hurts our community.

Police Accountability through Civilian Oversight Board (SB 621): Allows cities to create civilian boards to oversee law enforcement disciplinary matters.

Ballot Measure 110 Implementation (SB 755): Changes many felony criminal drug possession charges into violations and expands addiction and behavioral health services through new addiction recovery centers called Behavioral Health Resource Networks (BHRNs), and changes the amount of services per region, and the role of the Oversight and Accountability Council.

Prohibiting Guns in Public Buildings & Safe Storage Act (SB 554): Allows school districts and public higher education institutions to ban firearms on their premises, as well as requiring that gun owners store their firearms safely by using a cable lock, a storage container or safe, or in a gun rooms.

Eliminating Interference with Police Officers (HB 3164): State law is changed to align with Oregon Supreme Court decisions about when someone is arrested for interfering with police. Arrests must be based on whether someone knowingly or intentionally interferes with police, so police cannot arrest people based on noncriminal behavior.

• Civil Remedy for Doxing (HB 3047): Creates cause to sue for damages if a person’s information is released without their consent. (Doxing is the term used for disclosing someone’s identity and related personal information with the intent of harassing, stalking or causing harm).

6. Environmental Justice

The wellbeing of our children—and future generations—requires that we take immediate action on the climate crisis. Rising temperatures, wildfires, and poor air quality are impacting communities, especially marginalized and vulnerable communities, across the state, including our farms, forests, towns, and cities. There is no more time left to wait around for action, and I wholeheartedly support bold efforts to empower Oregon in becoming a leader in addressing our climate crisis while ensuring that the communities most impacted by climate change are centered in our solutions.  

• Responding to Wildfire Prevention (SB 762): Allocates more than $600 million to support communities impacted by the September 2020 wildfires, mitigate the effects of future wildfires, and increase community resiliency

Energy Affordability Act (HB 2475): Allows the Public Utility Commission to create a discount rate for low-income households.

Healthy Homes (HB 2842): Invests $10 million to provide low-income Oregonians and landlords with grants for energy efficiency upgrades, smoke filtration technology, fire hardening, and other critical housing fixes and upgrades.

100% clean energy by 2040 (HB 2021): Invests $50 million in local jobs and clean energy for rural, low-income and Black, Indigenous and communities of color. This bill represents the boldest electricity emissions reduction timeline in the country.

Extending Producer Recycling Responsibility (SB 582): Modernizes Oregon’s recycling system by setting statewide rates for plastic and recycling contamination reduction goals and increasing accessibility in rural areas and apartment complexes.


SD 24 ARPA Investment (including Rep Valderrama and Rep Reardon)


President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is a $1.9 trillion economic investment from the federal government into communities across the nation that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic challenges. Uniquely in Oregon, each State Senator received $4 million and each Representative received $2 million to invest in specific, local projects that serve their community members and meet the needs of their districts. The list below is the $4 million our office allocated, representing 11 projects that focus on economic recovery, support for small businesses, affordable housing development, youth engagement, and other initiatives that ensure our district can thrive.

You can also check out the image above which includes the additional $2 million investment from Representative Valderrama and $2 million investment from Representative Reardon. 

• $290,000 to African Youth and Community Organization’s Dream Center - For the past 11 years, AYCO has impacted the lives of over 20,000 East-African immigrants and refugees. Through advocacy, inclusion, youth mentorship, civic engagement, athletics, community forums, and workshops, they have grown tremendously with increased demand. Capital investment for community center space has often proven to be the most difficult to raise. This investment will go toward community and office spaces of AYCO'S Dream Center, while proving resources for construction jobs.

• $300,000 to Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon’s Property Acquisition Fund - APANO will use ARPA funds to buy 2-3 key properties to stabilize our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities by developing mixed-use affordable housing combined community spaces, health care centers, childcare facilities, and affordable commercial spaces.

• $350,000 to Clackamas County’s Business Recovery Center -North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce will use this fund to expand the Business Recovery Center's offerings to the small businesses in District 24: Grants to speed up local recovery; rent and utility assistance; tuition assistance for both business owners and employees; outreach expansion to the Black, Indigenous and communities of color through the use of translation services and the hiring of bilingual outreach coordinators to ensure that our minority-owned businesses are being well served throughout the region.

$200,000 to Clackamas Service Center’s Food Hub - This new 10,000 square foot warehouse will serve as a central logistics hub for food aid receiving, storage, packaging, and distribution to families and individuals experiencing food insecurity in East Multnomah and Clackamas counties. 

$250,000 to Coalition of Communities of Color’s Gun Violence Prevention Infrastructure - This investment will be use to build a regional community safety infrastructure with culturally-specific service providers to address gun violence.

$100,000 to Portland Business Alliance’s Black Economic Prosperity - The long-term vision of the Black Economic Prosperity Agenda is provide a return on investment by measuring key economic data points for Black businesses and households, monitoring for demonstrated improvement over the next 10 years. The project will identify solutions to improve economic factors for Black and all residents of color in our region, and create a Center for Black Economic Advancement that brings support systems under one roof.

$350,000 to Rosewood Initiative’s Equitable Neighborhood Development - The Rosewood neighborhood is an increasingly diverse and impoverished area in a region with rapidly increasing housing costs and wealth inequality. The Rosewood Initiative sits in a property that, through the organization's long standing community investment, represents a significant opportunity to secure a catalytic site in East Portland to realize a long-time community development vision. This investment will benefit the racially and culturally diverse communities who live in the neighborhood now by adding community benefits including a broad mix of commercial, residential, open space, and community-serving uses, including an ethnic grocery store, multicultural community center, workforce development, support services, a central public plaza that are culturally-responsive to the Rosewood community.

$1,120,000 to Seeding Justice’s Small Business Development Grant - Establish Small Business Development grants to provide direct funds to small businesses in Senate District 24, as they are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

$600,000 to Sunflower Village’s Capital Construction - Funds will be used to acquire 2 parcels of land in Mill Park neighborhood of East Portland, for the purpose of developing rental housing for low and moderate income residents. Hacienda will develop, own, manage and provide services to housing at both properties, with a focus on Black, Indigenous and communities of color and low and moderate income families. As well as housing units, the sites will include community and outdoor spaces. Hacienda will provide resident services that include service navigation, early childhood and adolescent education enrichment, and offer pathways to asset building and homeownership. The two sites have the capacity to develop up to 65 units of new housing.

$100,000 to The Reimagine Oregon Project - This investment will support statewide success responding to and supporting Black and African American Oregonians who are seeking change in District 24, a community where many people of African descent reside and where racial disparities in access to health, wealth, and quality of life are rampant. This allocation will help the community organize for justice and change as we rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic, from hosting local town halls to providing virtual and in-person trainings. 

$340,000 to Youth Participatory Budgeting for COVID Relief & RecoveryYouth have been uniquely impacted by COVID-19 and are underrepresented in government decision making. They deserve voice and vote in shaping public funds invested on their behalf for COVID-19 pandemic relief and recovery. Project outcomes include Youth Health Services, Housing and Homeless Services, Youth Public Art, Youth Recreation and Cultural Programs, and other categories determined by the Community Steering Committee. 


• Lawmakers OK More than $700 Million for Housing Needs - Oregon Capital Insider

• Oregon Legislature Extends Deadline for Tenants to Pay Back Rent Debt - Willamette Week

• Oregon Legislature extends moratorium on foreclosures through June 30 - OPB News

• Oregon Legislature Approves Expanded Options for Building of Affordable Housing - OPB News

• Oregon lawmakers approve creation of new office to support immigrants and refugees - OPB News

• Bills Focused on Improving the Lives of Immigrants and Refugees Pass During Last Days of Session - The Oregonian

• Oregon Senate passes the Sanctuary Promise Act - The World Link

• HB 3230 protects against unjust deportation (Op-Ed by Senator Jama) - Statesman Journal

• Bill to Expand Protections for Oregonians' Gender Identity Clears Oregon Senate - OPB News

• Oregon Lawmakers Call for Investigation of Harassment, Discrimination on Campuses - Lund Report

• Newly-appointed state senators address county issues - Clackamas County

From resettlement to belonging: Opportunities for refugee leadership in civic participation - Unbound Philanthropy

Oregon State Sen. Kayse Jama's Ambitious Agenda - OPB News

• Oregon’s BIPOC Caucus Reflects on Major Achievements - The Skanner

• We Can Build a More Just and Dynamic Future in Oregon (Op-Ed by the BIPOC Caucus)Pamplin Media Group

• Could This Year's Class of First-Term Lawmakers be Oregon's Most Effective? - OPB News



Join Representative Andrea Valderrama (HD 47) and Representative Jeff Reardon (HD 48) and I for a debrief on the legislative session.

The three legislators will discuss education equity, healthcare, public safety, environmental justice, housing, economic, immigration and refugee rights, and much more. Free childcare and light refreshments will be provided. Interpretation will be available upon request if made by August 9th.

Please help us prepare for food, childcare and interpretation by filling out this form by August 9th, or as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our office at



World Refugee Day this year was on June 20th, 2021. To celebrate our immigrant and refugee friends, neighbors, and community members in Oregon, our office organized a series of events to listen, learn and honor such a special part of Oregonian life. If you are interested in watching the recording of events, you can find them here. To view our video of the closing messages or the Governor's Proclamation, click here.


Although we have accomplished so much over the past 6 months, our work is still far from done. We have some unfinished business that we need to come back to such as:

  • HB 2002 which, would have established restorative justice grant programs and mitigated mandatory minimum sentences for non-murder felonies; 
  • and HB 3230 which, would have created a program to provide universal legal representation on immigration matters through the Oregon Department of Administrative Services. 

Together, we can continue strengthening our communities and our state. I am excited to see what we do in the months to come.

Stay safe and be well!


Capitol Phone: 503-986-1724 

Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-409, Salem, OR, 97301



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