Who's watching those half billions? No one.

Turn over any rock in Salem, and one or more slimy creatures underneath will quickly slither away. So it was when state auditors started asking questions about where $425 million in federal rent assistance dollars went during Covid. The money was granted to the Oregon state housing department, and the auditors wanted to know how many applications were processed, who got help, and how much.

What they found was that nobody in Salem really knows. The state housing bureaucrats handed the money over to 18 "community action agencies" around the state, and left it to them to do the accountability piece. Of course, the auditors were appalled, and they let the housing department have it in a report issued yesterday. The word the Capital Chronicle used to describe the report was "scathing," and I think that's a fit description.

"[T]he agency has no way of knowing how much of the $426 million went to eligible Oregon recipients and how much was sent to landlords, renters, and non-eligible recipients in error,” the audit report said. “The lack of verification also undermines the agency’s attempts to determine whether its equity-centered approach for Oregon ERA was successful in reaching people who have been historically and systematically excluded from housing opportunities.’

It also noted that agency leaders still didn’t know how many Oregonians were helped by the program.

“Since January 2023, OHCS reported several different numbers as program outcomes,” the report said. “The number of total applications paid has been reported as 56,320, 65,020 or over 67,500; the number of households assisted has been reported to be 51,320 or 51,744. When asked in November 2023 for the exact number, OHCS personnel indicated the final figures had not been calculated.”...

Auditors heard from community action agencies, which distributed some of the funds, that they denied approximately $37 million in requests made by fraudsters. They also reviewed 61 randomly selected payments, totalling about $375,000, that were approved by the contractor Public Partnerships and found close to a 30% error rate. One incorrect landlord received $2,700 that hadn’t been recouped, and they found overpayments to other landlords and tenants. Based on that limited sample, auditors estimated the state may have misspent about $11 million. 

Here in Portland, as best I can tell, the "community action agency" is the Multnomah County government.  If that's the case, it's a cinch that the money was then sprayed out to the nonprofit industrial complex, and at that point I wouldn't be surprised if all supervision stopped. Does it count as housing assistance when they pay the mortgage of a nonprofit executive director?

On that note, I was amused, in a sad sort of way, by this tidbit in the Salem Statesman-Journal's story on the audit:

Auditors pointed to unstable management and inadequate staff at OHCS as contributing factors. Its director Margaret Salazar departed in January of 2022 when she was appointed Housing and Urban Development Regional Administrator for Region 10 by the Joe Biden administration serving Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. She has since become CEO of a Portland nonprofit named Reach Community Development.

Ah yes, round and round the revolving door goes. Plenty of payrolls to land on.

If you don't think a good chunk of that $425 million went to people and places it wasn't intended to go, I've got a hospital aerial tram I'd like to sell you. Everybody is using as an excuse the fact that this program was slapped together in an emergency, but come on, the timeframe in question is mid-2021 to mid-2022, and Covid hit in March 2020. As with distributing vaccines, Killer Kate and her minions should have been way better prepared than they were.

And don't forget, as the auditors point out, we're still supposedly in a housing "emergency." The official solutions to the shigella-infested tent camps in Portland are going to include lots more handouts to landlords, and to builders of the poverty housing projects of the future. The half billion the auditors are talking about here is only the beginning.

If I were an ambitious prosecutor, or a brave young investigative reporter, I'd start sniffing around at the end of the food chain to see where all these hundreds of millions really went. I'm sure I'd find all sorts of sleaze.


  1. The sleaze/scam/corruption is condoned because current ideology is more important than established morals .

  2. At least it's only half a billion.

    1. A few more grants like this and you’ll be talking about real money…

  3. I think in all likelihood this funding went to supporting as many needing renters as the Paycheck Protection Program funds went to supporting needy businesses.

  4. Those protected accounts in places like the Caribbean just keep getting fatter.
    The money is GONE!

  5. To modernize the famous line of Senator Dirksen: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money for branding, focus groups, and legions of consultants.”


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