While we are now four and a half months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to provide an update on the good work counties are doing for Oregonians in this challenging time, and a brief update on AOC’s work.

County commissioners, judges, and chairs have been working around the clock to adapt to the impacts of the pandemic on their communities, while balancing the health, safety, and well-being of their residents with the economic impact associated with COVID-19 response efforts. 

Counties, the direct line of service and the local public health authorities, through all of the twists and turns of the pandemic, have been unfaltering in ensuring their residents continue to have access to critical services. In addition to providing direct response to the public health needs relating to the pandemic, counties are continuing to deliver everyday programs and services including health and human services, public safety, natural resources and recreation, transportation, land use, economic development, and many others. 

While needs have been diverse across the State, many counties swiftly developed programs and initiatives have been delivered to address the ever-evolving challenges related to the pandemic.

In the early stages of the pandemic where Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was in short supply, counties like Douglas County, quickly stood up a drive-through testing option in order to provide residents safe access to testing and preserve PPE. 

Other counties like Lane County and Umatilla County reacted to the initial economic impact of State mandated closures on their small business communities, creating grant programs to bridge the gap and help vulnerable businesses stay afloat while awaiting State and federal assistance.

The Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) has been ratcheting up our advocacy efforts to elevate the county voice and communicate the critical role counties have played and continue play in delivering adaptive and innovative services to Oregonians, as well as their exceptional pandemic response efforts.

The AOC team has been devoted to ensuring counties have the resources needed from the State and federal partners to meet their community needs. AOC is continuing to work with the State to ensure full funding intended for local government under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is delivered to counties through a fair and transparent process. In addition, our advocacy team is working with legislative leaders for additional resources to address evolving needs and future waves of the pandemic.

We all know the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been far greater than many of us could have imagined. The whole AOC team is proud to serve all of Oregon’s 36 counties and continue to support the great work they are doing on behalf of Oregonians throughout the response and recovery process.  

Contributed by: Gina Firman Nikkel, Ph.D | AOC Executive Director