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.
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.
The Federal guidance provides flexibility to CRF recipients to respond to critical needs of their communities including public health, safety, and economic impact expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. AOC is grateful for the understanding that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to response and recovery, and the confidence in local governments as the best bodies equipped to address community impacts and needs during this pandemic.
Funds can support testing, contact tracing, economic development, and broadband infrastructure to help as schools, businesses, and medicine shift to online platforms.
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.
We are still learning what has been spent, and what is still available, and are pursuing the full $624.8 million of suggested distribution to local governments.
Click here to view AOC CRF advocacy letters.
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 65 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