Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) has been dedicated to providing critical member services during the pandemic to help Oregon’s 36 counties navigate the complexities involved with health, testing, regulatory changes, economic impact, resource management, advocacy, and critical information. Below are a few critical areas AOC has focused efforts on since March.
AOC has been working with the State to ensure critical funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act reaches the state’s front-line service providers, Oregon’s counties.
Following the 2nd Special Session of 2020, the Legislative Emergency Board (E-Board) convened, August 17, to reconsider an action that failed at the August 5, 2020 E-Board meeting, authorizing the State Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to expend $105 million of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on behalf of tribes and local governments. Counties and local governments objected to the authorization instead encouraging the E-Board to distribute CRF resources directly to local governments so that local decisions could be made to address community needs. The E-Board discussed the matter at some length, ultimately voting by the narrowest of margins to authorize the DAS expenditure.
Click here to view AOC’s testimony for the August Legislative Emergency Board action on distribution of CRF resources intended for counties.
AOC is continuing to seek funding to support county needs as they navigate the pandemic.
Background on CRF
Oregon was awarded a total of $1.635 billion through state and direct local allocations of CRF, and the CARES Act and U.S. Department of the Treasury guidance clarify that of the total allocation directly to the State, up to 45 percent is intended to be – and should be made available to local governments after direct allocations to municipalities with populations of 500,000 or over are made. Washington and Multnomah counties and the City of Portland were the only local government bodies to qualify for direct allocations.
The Treasury clarified that the “statutory structure” in the CARES Act of giving money to the states to sub allocate “was based on a recognition that it is more administratively feasible to rely on states, rather than the federal government, to manage the transfer of funds to smaller units of local government.” This approach was to ensure equitable treatment among local governments of all sizes. Based on Treasury guidelines, the intent is for $624.8 million to be allocated to local governments.
Of the State’s $1.389 billion allocation of CRF dollars (after direct allocation to Washington and Multnomah counties and the City of Portland), the State has made $200 million available for counties through a reimbursement model.
AOC successfully worked with the State in the early stages of the pandemic to provide flexibilities around budgets, clarity and access for public meetings in a now virtual world, and flexibilities for counties to continue to provide services for Oregonians.
Over the course of the pandemic, AOC has communicated on a number of issues related to the pandemic, including providing regular updates to county officials on federal, State, and regulatory action, as well as funding opportunities that impact Oregonians. Since March, AOC has distributed 79 special briefings and news alerts to county commissioners, judges, chairs, and administrators.
AOC has and continues to work with State and federal partners, including the National Association of Counties (NACo) to ensure counties have been able to ask questions and provide input on regulations and mitigation efforts.
Key information sharing options AOC has coordinated:
- Weekly agency partners call.
- District listening posts for regional information sharing.
- Regular calls with the governor’s office.
Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate