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Jim Bernard: Board of County Commissioners needs your help to urge Gov. Kate Brown to distribute federal funding

The Board of County Commissioners needs your help to urge Gov. Kate Brown and the state to distribute the federal funding we are due for COVID-19 relief.

CLACKAMAS COUNTY - Jim BernardAs you know, the governor decided to group Clackamas County to our neighboring counties for phased reopening. Yet the state has left our community without the cash we so desperately need to survive this pandemic. This is unfair, and we need to let her know these funds are crucial.

We want to be very clear: The financial crisis we face in responding to the pandemic exists whether we are grouped to the region or not. But through this grouping, the severity of the situation we're in becomes abundantly clear.

Our regional partners have collectively received $247 million from the CARES Act to respond to the pandemic. Clackamas so far has received nothing. Rather, the state was entrusted in April with $625 million from the CARES Act intended to support local governments and has, to date, only set aside $200 million for such.

The state has already spent some of its funding on necessary and impactful programs, plenty is left that can support local communities, as Congress intended.

Instead, counties like Clackamas are left asking the governor's office for dedicated funding and are often ignored.

Oregonians deserve better. You deserve better.

For a glimpse at this unfair and dangerous disparity, the state committed to reimburse $5.6 million to Clackamas County for pandemic related expenses before May 15.

Those dollars have still not arrived.

The state has also said we may apply for reimbursements up to $12 million for the rest of the year. But as you know, local governments fund programs that serve the public.

We don't have $12 million to simply spend and hope the state will reimburse us.

To serve our pandemic needs through the rest of the year, we estimate we need an additional $45 million. This funding would pay for increased testing and contact tracing, additional PPE for key providers and businesses, enhanced public health responses and resources for vulnerable communities, as well as investments in housing vouchers and services for many in our community who have lost their job or home – or both – because of the pandemic.

We also could provide between $7 and $10 million in economic relief to match efforts that will occur in the rest of the region. But without dedicated funding, those investments will not exist.

We believe this request is modest and reasonable considering 420,000 Oregonians call Clackamas home.

Make no mistake: we need your help to ensure this funding comes to Clackamas County.

Please call your state legislators, who approve these budgets, and share your story so they know how funding can impact our community. Call Governor Brown and let her know silence is not what we expect or need from our leaders and that meaningful funds are needed now.

Thank you, residents of Clackamas County. We'll get through this together!

And please wear your masks!

Jim Bernard is chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

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