Multnomah County Chair: COVID-19 aftershocks to continue for years
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury does not expect the county to fully recover from the COVID-19 crisis within the next three years.
During her annual State of the County address, Kafoury said she expects to be leading the county's recovery efforts until she leaves office, which must happen at the end of 2022 because of the term limitations.
"The remainder of my term will be committed to overseeing the recovery," Kafoury said.
Very little about the address was normal. Although it was presented to the traditional host, the City Club of Portland, it was delivered online because of the restrictions against gatherings caused by the outbreak. Kafoury was seated in her temporary office in the new Multnomah County health headquarters in Northwest Portland Building and appeared to be reading from a teleprompter.
Kafoury also abandoned the standard format of summarizes the county's accomplishments over the past year. Instead, she talked exclusively about its response to the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the deadly disease.
For much of her talk, Kafoury praised the county for moving swiftly to help the most vulnerable residents. Among other things, she said the county had opened four new shelters in recent weeks, including one in the Oregon Convention Center and three in Portland Parks & Recreation community centers.
In response to a question, Kafoury said she was not aware of any plans to open the former, unused Multnomah County Wapato Jail to treat COVID-19 victims. However, she said that could change in the county experiences New York levels of infection.
Also in response to questions, Kafoury said she did not have any plans to lay off county employees or otherwise reduce the budget at this time. She admitted projected county revenues are falling by "millions of dollars" because of the economic slowdown, but said it is too early to know exactly how much.
She added that she expected federal and state financial assistance to help offset the losses.
Kafoury also urged voters to support Metro's $250 million-per-year homeless service measure on the May 19 primary election ballot. She said Multnomah County will be the first county in the nation to enact such a measure, if it passes.
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