Senator Kayse Jama’s Legislative Newsletter 01/18/21

Senator Jama

January E-Newsletter

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

Salaam and happy new year, friends!! 

I hope you all had a safe and joyful holiday season. 

A year ago, I was humbly appointed by the Multnomah and Clackamas County Boards of Commissioners to serve as the next Oregon State Senator of Senate District 24, representing East Portland and Clackamas. As we are ready to start the 2022 legislative session, I want to take a moment to reflect on 2021.

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, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, low-income Oregonians, and rural communities.

It has been an honor to be a first-time legislator in such an historic legislative session and special session. 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. Together, we have honored our commitment of keeping more than 10,000 Oregon families housed, supporting agricultural communities impacted by this summer's heat dome, providing assistance for Afghan refugees, investing in gun violence intervention and prevention programs in East Portland, and much more.


Housing Protections

Extended protections to prevent evictions of Oregonians who have rental assistance on the way. Allocated $215 million to provide additional rental assistance, speed up application process, and ensure landlords are fully paid.

Drought Relief

Allocated $100 million drought relief to support farmers and irrigators across the state who have been impacted by the recent heat dome, wildfire smoke, and the record drought. Established a forgivable loan program to provide financial assistance for Oregon farmers and ranchers who lost gross income in 2021 due to a qualifying natural disaster.

Illegal Cannabis Enforcement

Allocated $25 million to prevent illegal operations and address the humanitarian crisis impacting workers at these sites. Expanded the scope of the Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant program at the Criminal Justice Commission to include funding for community-based organizations to address the humanitarian crisis that workers are forced into with unlawful cultivation or distribution operations.

Afghan Refugee Support

Allocated $18 million to help Afghan refugees arriving in Oregon find housing, education, language and job training, and legal assistance.

Affordable Housing

Allocated $1 million to each of the following cities: Albany, Ashland, Beaverton, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, Grants Pass, Gresham, Hillsboro, Medford, Portland, Redmond, Salem, and Springfield. The $14 million total will address housing insecurity, lack of affordable housing, or homelessness over the next few months. The City of Portland will use its $1 million to work with local partners to establish RV parking sites.

Oregon Mass Timber Modular Housing Prototype

Allocated $5 million for the Port of Portland to help fund the Oregon Mass Timber Modular Housing Prototype project, which will develop a prototype of modular housing units made from mass timber and assess the economic, environmental, and efficiency of creating these housing units to address the housing crisis.

Gun Violence Prevention

Invested $2 million to assist the City of Gresham and local community partners in creating and implementing the East Metro Outreach, Prevention, and Intervention (OPI) program. The program will address rising gun violence activities and improve public safety outcomes in East County by building community and investing in culturally responsive youth programming.


The 2022 Legislative Session will start on Tuesday, February 3rd. This is a 35-day session and some refer to it as the Short Session. I'm excited to share with you my priorities for this legislative session. Some are my personal bills. Some are committee bills. Some are the ones I'm chief-sponsoring and have been dedicating staff time to participate.

Each legislator will only get to introduce up to 2 legislative concepts. Additionally, as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing and Development, I get to introduce up to 3 additional housing-related bills. 

Check out my website for more details on these bills.


If you would like to learn more about these priorities, I will be holding a joint town hall with Representative Andrea Valderrama on Wednesday, January 26th from 5:30 - 7:00 PM. It would be great to have you joined us and you can rsvp for the event by clicking HERE.


Oregon Legislature Allocated $18M to Welcome and Resettle 1,200 Afghan Arrivals

During the 2nd Special Session in December, 2021, Oregon State Legislature approved more than $400 million in funding to address various issues such as rent assistance, farmers facing drought and illegal marijuana grow operations.

Part of this passage was an allocation of $18 million to support Afghan families with housing, education, case management and legal services, job training, interpretation classes and culturally-specific support as they settle in our state. You can view the breakdown of the funding package HERE.

As a State Senator and Representative with refugee stories of our own, it has been an honor of mine to work along Representative Khanh Pham, our amazing staff, state agencies, legislators, and community members to advocate for the passage of this funding package.

When the United States pulled out from Afghanistan and the Taliban seized power, we were proud to be in solidarity with Governor Brown and the Oregon Legislature to call for our federal government to do everything in their power
to evacuate families who were in harm's way. Now that many families have been evacuated to U.S. military bases and have begun to arrive in Oregon, we must help them build a successful foundation for their lives as our neighbors, students, workers, and community members.

Refugees have created an enduring legacy in our communities in which they have come to call home. Cities and towns across the country have witnessed first-hand the positive impact that has come with welcoming refugees. This
$18 million dollar proposal will not only prevent families from falling through the cracks as they enroll their children in school, secure housing, adjust their legal status, and find employment, but will also be a strategic economic investment for our state. Oregon’s resettlement partners have committed to welcoming 1,200 Afghan arrivals for our state to do our part to help resettle more than 40,000 Afghan individuals who are still located on U.S. military bases.

Oregon has always stepped up to welcome vulnerable and displaced families seeking refuge from violence and oppression, and ensure their smooth transition. This time is no different. Thanks to the legislature for this landmark investment. 


Oregon Legislature Allocated Over $200M and Passed Policies to Prevent Winter Evictions

As Chairs of the Oregon House and Senate Committees on Housing, I worked with Representative Julie Fahey (now Majority Leader Fahey) to craft a policy and funding proposal that can keep people housed during the holiday season while ensuring landlords are fully paid. The proposal was approved by the legislature during the 2nd Special Session. Our proposal provides an additional $200 million in state funding to support both tenants and landlords. The money will go to rental assistance and eviction prevention services to make landlords whole for any rent during the safe harbor period that is not covered by rental assistance. These investments will be paired with an extension to the safe harbor that will protect renters while their application is being processed. You can view the details of our proposal HERE

With this plan, we can ensure that tenants continue to apply for assistance and that landlords who are waiting on rent will be paid. In addition, the extra funding would help address another problem ­– Oregonians in need have requested more rental assistance than the federal government has allocated, forcing the state to pause new applications to the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program, even though the need for rental assistance is still great.

Evictions have devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities. Even a short period of homelessness or housing instability can do generational damage. As a state, it is far more difficult and expensive to reach people who have already lost stable housing than it is to prevent an eviction.

Before the passage of the bill, more than 10,000 Oregon families risk losing their homes through no fault of their own. They have filled out an application for rental assistance, and yet they still face eviction due to delays in processing those applications. No Oregonian should be evicted while rental assistance is on the way. That is why the special legislative session called by Gov. Kate Brown was critical to our work of preventing mass evictions during the winter. Thanks to the legislature for stepping up and doing our parts to keep Oregonians housed.


Changes to the 2022 Legislative Session

As you likely know, the Omicron variant continues to rapidly spread and Oregon has once again hit a troubling record number of positive COVID cases. These record high numbers are forecasted to peak during the 2022 short session. 

While the Capitol building will remain open to the public and members will have access to their offices, Committees for the 2022 session will be completely virtual. We need to once again limit the number of people in the building to protect the health and safety of essential personnel who must be present in the Capitol to carry out the business of the legislature.

Additionally, in order to better ensure the safety of the public, employees, tenants and Legislators in the Capitol, security checkpoints will be implemented at select entry points to the building, starting Thursday, January 27, 2022.

Each checkpoint will be staffed by 1-2 security guards and will have a walkthrough metal detector. The two entrances on the north side of the building will also have x-ray machines to scan bags. Passing through the checkpoint will be much like going the airport or the courthouse.



1. Refugee Advocacy Lab Webinar (1/18)

Join the Refugee Advocacy Lab and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 1:00 PM for a webinar on How to Advocate for State and Local Funds to Support Refugee and Immigrant Communities. 

I was proud to spearhead a legislation during the special session in December, 2021 that allocated $18 millions to resettle at least 1,200 Afghan arrivals here in Oregon. I look forward to discussing the behind the scene work to make this happen and excited to hear from other panelists. Register for the webinar HERE.

2. Interfaith Legislative Forum (1/23)

Join Oregon Coalition of Christian Voices, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Interfaith Alliance on Poverty, Muslim Educational Trust, and Oregon Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice for a policy forum on Jan. 23 from 1:30 to 3:30 PM for an overview of legislative issues of concern to the faith community.

I will be joining as a panelist to discuss legislation that advances Affordable Housing and Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Register now for the free Zoom conference now.

3. 2022 Legislative Session Kick-Off with Rep. Andrea Valderrama (1/26)

Join Representative Andrea Valderrama and I for a Joint Town Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 26 from 5:30 - 7:00 PM as we discuss our 2022 legislative priorities. It would be great to have you joined us and you can rsvp for the event by clicking HERE.


As we venture forth, let’s all remain committed to practicing the strong public health habits we’ve formed over the last year. Wearing our masks, washing our hands, and watching our distance will remain important tools for keeping our communities safe and our kids in the classroom as the vaccination effort continues. As Oregon begins to be impacted by yet another COVID-19 surge, there has never been a more urgent time to receive your first, second, or booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Go to to find a vaccination site near you. 

Additionally, every home in the U.S. can soon order 4 free at-home COVID-19 test. There are no shipping cost and ordering begins Jan. 19

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact my office. My staff and I will be more than happy to help you as best as we can.

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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