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Oregon Cities, Counties Say They Haven’t Received Federal Funds From Gov. Brown

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.
The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

City and county leaders in Oregon say they have yet to receive their share of a federal aid package the state received late last month.

Congress signed the CARES Act at the end of March, which allocated $1.6 billion dollars to Oregon to help the coronavirus pandemic. It stipulated that large cities and counties, including Multnomah and Washington counties, would get funds directly from the federal government.

The state is responsible for disbursing the remaining funds to smaller cities and counties. But in Oregon, that has yet to happen.

Gov. Kate Brown has held phone calls with local leaders to discuss relief funds, but they say she hasn’t provided many details.

“We haven’t been told what the formula was going to be, or how it was going to be dispersed,” says Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot. “All we know is that it was supposed to be sent out to the front lines, and our front lines don’t have any.”

DeGroot says Brown is now going to bring the issue to legislators, but his county needs help sooner than later.

Brown’s press office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In nearby Jackson County, commissioners sent a press release on Friday criticizing Brown for not releasing the funds earlier.

“It is not acceptable that a few chosen metropolitan jurisdictions receive funding while rural areas are left to fend for themselves,” Commissioner Bob Strosser wrote in the release.

One of the rules in the CARES Act says cities and counties with populations greater than 500,000 would get money directly from the federal government. In Oregon, that included Multnomah and Washington counties, which got $142 million and $104 million.

The state now has $1.4 billion left to disburse among other jurisdictions in the state.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.