Commissioners castigated Governor Kate Brown this week for continuing to withhold meaningful coronavirus relief funding from Clackamas County — while funneling hundreds of millions in federal dollars to its Portland metro area neighbors.
In a statement from county leaders Wednesday, they said the governor’s decision to tether Clackamas to Washington and Multnomah counties for reopening has highlighted the funding imbalance in the state. While $247 million is being spent in the region by other counties and cities in the region, Clackamas County received only a fraction of the needed revenue from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act).
The state’s promise to reimburse the county $5.6 million for its pandemic response before May 15 arrived this week, two months after the funds were approved by the Oregon State Legislature.
Commissioners say Governor Brown has ignored Clackamas County’s plea for $45 million to provide life-saving services to residents and businesses in order to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The governor expects our region to reopen and work together,” says Chair Jim Bernard. “But while Portland and the other two counties in the region are spending hundreds of millions of dollars for public health, housing, people in need, and economic relief, Clackamas County is left looking at a list of needs and requirements it can’t possibly meet.”
“The state is asking our region to build something together, but seems OK that Clackamas doesn’t have the adequate resources to do so,” added Commissioner Sonya Fischer.
Our board of county commissioners encourages residents to take action. Please call your state legislators and Governor Brown and share your story so they know how funding can impact our community.
— Clackamas County, OR (@clackamascounty) July 29, 2020
Clackamas County’s Emergency Operation Center estimates it needs $45 million from the CARES Act to provide an adequate response to match the region. Without it, critical opportunities will be lost to invest in economic recovery and housing.
“It is simply unfair to couple Clackamas County to the Metro area counties, both of which received CARES Act funding, but profoundly unfair not to provide us our share,” says Commissioner Paul Savas. “This is an injustice to Clackamas County, its residents and businesses.”
According to the guidance by the U.S. Treasury Department, the CARES Act funding must be spent by the end of the calendar year.
“What hurts the most is that this is a self-inflicted wound on the state,” says Commissioner Martha Schrader. “We could be spending that now on people and businesses.”
“With infections at one-quarter of our neighbors, being the first county to recognize the emergency and take action, the state tethered us to our neighbors without asking us and refuses to give us the funds we need to help our citizens and businesses survive this crisis without strings attached that neither of our neighbors have to put up with,” said Commissioner Ken Humberston. “It is blatantly unfair!”
Clackamas County’s $45 million request for CARES Act funds would support increased COVID-19 testing, hiring more contact tracers, keeping people housed and programs to help businesses survive.
Washington County received a direct allocation of $105 million of CARES Act funds, the city of Portland received $114 million, and Multnomah County received $28 million.
The county’s July 1 letter requesting CARES funding from the governor’s office available below: