Counties and Cities in Disagreement over Relief Fund Distribution

The Oregon Capitol has been on lockdown thanks to COVID-19 amid stay-indoors orders in the state.

As an intervention, Oregon capitals and districts outside Portland metropolis are now subject to compensation of up to a total of $200 million of spending tied to public health amid the virus.

This is part of the deal, Gov. Kate Brown entered with Democrats in the Legislature to disburse federal reprieve funds.

The fact that this amount is only a meager of the federally allotted $1.6 billion, and the strict restrictions governing its usage have raised concerns among Oregon lawmakers.

The fund disbursement, spearheaded by Governor Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, has received opposition from municipal and county authorities.

At one time, Senator Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, said prioritizing relief funding for “public health above all” may mean areas with fewer COVID-19 victims would get little help, even if they are facing hard economic times.

While the national CARES Act allocated Oregon approximately $1.6 billion for local authorities like counties and cities, the most populated received funds as follows;

  • The city of Portland – $114 million
  • Multnomah County— $28 million
  • Washington County— $104.8 million

The Treasury Department mandated that the finances be used strictly for costs incurred from the public health crisis in 2020—which weren’t part of the federal budget.

Governor Brown, Sen. Courtney, and House Speaker Kotek allocated $15 million for tribal authorities and another $200 million for local authorities. According to a House document, these amounts were to “pay for PPE, contact tracing, testing capacity, vulnerable population quarantine, farmworker field sanitation restrictions, and other expenditures incurred by local authorities amid COVID-19.”

Also, according to Kotek, they held back the residual $525 million to support upcoming projects like rental assistance in case Oregon suffers a surge in infections later in the year.

Lastly, the three leaders spent $450 million on state expenditures linked to COVID-19 like hiked public health expenditure, more Food Bank financing, hygiene supplies and custodial employees, and the transitory 10 percent increase in Medicaid payments to centers that host individuals with mental disabilities.

In the meantime, the people of Portland & Multnomah County have claimed they shouldn’t be excluded from seeking out the funds merely because they already received support from the federal government.

However, the three legislative heads denied that call maintaining that Portland must put together its funds with Multnomah County, as it is the number one public health response center in Oregon. Failure to create a reliable response center may hinder their ability to recover economically.

Through its chairman, Multnomah County also expressed that the allotted amount is not enough to reinstate its economy, given the county’s job as the leading local public health response zone.

Final Words

Despite complaints by different counties and cities, the three legislative heads—Governor Brown, House Speaker Kotek and Senate President Courtney— maintain that their move is rational, and that Oregon needs to hold back some funding in preparation for future uncertainties.

Author Bio: Michael Hollis is a Detroit native who now lives in Los Angeles. He is an account executive who has helped hundreds of business owners with their start up business cash advance problems. He’s experimented with various occupations: computer programming, dog-training, scientificating… But his favorite job is the one he’s now doing full time — providing business funding for hard-working business owners across the country.