Chamber asks for transparency in county health inspection fee increase process

Portland Metro Chamber,

The Portland Metro Chamber, in coalition with six other business organizations, sent Multnomah County Chair Pederson and the County Commission a letter expressing deep concern regarding the large fee increases proposed by the County Health Inspections Program.

The County Health Inspection Program ensures that local businesses comply with federal, state, and local health and safety regulations. The proposed fee increases are projected to be 6% for 2024, 8% for 2025, 8% for 2026, and 8% for 2027. This fee schedule would result in approximately a 30% increase over four years.

The Chamber stressed that these large, proposed fee increases—with virtually no community outreach—will result in more small businesses closing due to the high cost of doing business in Multnomah County.

In particular, the Chamber stressed concern about the impact on food service businesses that are disproportionately owned and operated by immigrants and people of color, including small restaurants and food trucks, grocery stores, and thousands of other storefront family-owned businesses.

“As County Commissioners charged with the responsibility of being stewards of our public tax and fee dollars, we ask that you demand better from county departments and services seeking to dramatically increase fees. We understand the need for these important programs, but last-minute fee increases of this size, with little to no detail or stakeholder engagement—and with no equity lens—deserve far more scrutiny than a rubber stamp approval from the Board,” said Jon Isaacs, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs.

County staff outlined the stakeholder outreach undertaken in a memo to the Board, which included approval from the Oregon Health Authority and input from a small advisory committee made up of five individuals.

Last month, the Portland Metro Chamber released our State of Small Business report, and it found that Portland’s economy is one of the most dependent on small businesses—those with one to 50 employees. 94% of all Multnomah County businesses are considered small business, and 28% of all employees work for these small businesses, the highest share among our peer cities. The report also found that despite this dependence on small businesses, Portland and Multnomah County is one of the most expensive and difficult places to start and operate a small business in the nation.

The coalition of businesses requested that the fee increases be rejected, and County Health Inspection Program staff be directed to engage in genuine and transparent stakeholder engagement and budget transparency.

Coalition members:

Home Building Association of Greater Portland
Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce
Multifamily NW
Oregon Smart Growth
Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association
Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors
Portland Metro Chamber

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