WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representative Greg Walden, R-Hood River, is now urging Governor Brown and Oregon lawmakers to share millions in CARES Act funding with local governments around the state.
Last week, Jackson County officials issued a statement saying that Brown had shown "no intention" of distributing more than $1.6 billion in CARES Act funding with local governments, beyond the hundreds of millions that were earmarked directly for Oregon's areas hardest-hit by COVID-19 — namely the City of Portland, Multnomah and Washington counties.
Rep. Walden wrote letter to Brown, asserting that Congress had "fully intended" that a portion of those funds would be shared with local governments to offset coronavirus costs.
"Importantly, many states — including our neighbors in Washington and Idaho — have already moved forward to make funds available to their local government partners,” wrote Walden.
Walden said that he has been working with the U.S. Department of Treasury to get clarification on the funding's intended use, claiming that additional guidance from the agency issued last night demonstrates "that COVID-related costs borne by local government are eligible for assistance from the state."
The guidance referenced by Walden indicates that a state "may" distribute the funding to local governments, not that they must. It's unclear whether this particular round of funding was primarily intended to help local agencies offset costs from the COVID-19 response, but appears to have been given for a relatively broad range of uses at the discretion of the recipient states — as long as it is coronavirus-related.
"Commissioners throughout my district are asking for financial help. Every county faces costs to comply with the state’s plan to reopen. If nothing else, these are clearly COVID-related costs of compliance,” wrote Walden.
Walden asked that Governor Brown and the legislature's Emergency Board to revisit the decision to not include local governments in the use of those funds.