With this year's legislative session adjourned, state Rep. Mark Meek, D-Gladstone/Oregon City, took some time to describe the "whirlwind process" for allocating federal grants.
President Joe Biden's pandemic recovery plan, known as the American Rescue Plan, gave $240 million for allocation by 90 Oregon lawmakers. Each of the 60 representatives (like Meek) was allocated $2 million, and each senator $4 million. Money could only go to state agencies, local governments (including schools) or nonprofits. Money can be spent on capital improvements, grants or other one-time uses; they cannot be spent on operations.
"We only had a couple of weeks to decide on the projects," Meek said. "I was trying to be smart and judicious in how to distribute those funds."
Oregon City Chamber's business recovery centers were among the groups in Meek's district that benefited from the funding.
"I figured that the best way to help local businesses was to provide $600,000 to reach people on the ground who need help," Meek said.
Clackamas County received $500,000 from Meek to help construct the Gladstone and Oak Lodge community libraries. Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine got $600,000 for community health care and education with Meek and Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, each contributing $300,000 to the free clinic.
"This is a way for people to have access to health care that they otherwise wouldn't have," Meek said.
Meek's final $600,000 went to Parrott Creek Child & Family Services, which recently developed plans with Clackamas County for a major expansion of services for rehabilitating youth who have been convicted of crimes.
"Parrott Creek has a $10 million project, and they got a big boost with the funds we provided, and this state funding will signal to other potential funders that this is a worthy project," Meek said. "I could have funded some other infrastructure projects, but I decided that the recovery center would be the best way to reach the most people who need the funding now."
On May 4, Meek's office checked in with Oregon City officials about potentially allocating federal funds. A staffer for Meek "wanted to check in on how the industrial development work on Beavercreek is going, specifically where you're at and what kind of help you would need with investments. He would like to dedicate some of his ARPA money toward the program and would be happy to meet with you to speak about it."Â
In meeting with Meek on June 2, Oregon City Public Works Director John Lewis said it was decided, based on the city project's timeline for readiness and their funding needs relative to Meek's federal allocation, "that we all should be targeting future grant funding opportunities for OC projects." In May, Lewis also determined that U.S. senators' federal grants under the American Rescue Plan had a timeline and expectations that were "not well aligned for Oregon City projects."
Lewis pointed out that the city continues to receive state and federal funding from other sources, including funds for the Union Pacific railway line through downtown to become a quiet zone, which would make residential development more attractive there. State officials have allocated $1 million in 2022 for the Oregon City Quiet Zone, which the city will use along with $2 million in federal funding.
"We also continue to maintain several high-profile projects on time and on budget," Lewis said.
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