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An apparent loophold in the CARES Act could block the county from receiving funds, even though counties in Oregon are front-line public health agencies.

COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - County Chair Deborah Kafoury, foreground, moving into her emergency office in the midst of the county's health care workers. Although Multnomah County is leading the public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak in this area, it may not receive any emergency funding from the $2 trillion economic stimulus package passed by Congress.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury has told the Portland Business Alliance that an apparent loophole in the bill may shortchange 26 counties throughout the nation, including Multnomah County. They all have cities with more than 500,000 people that are guaranteed funding, instead of the counties in which they reside.

"We are still researching this, but I urge you to contact our members of Congress," Kafoury said during an online Recovery Roundtable on Monday, March 6.

Kafoury said it would be "devastating" if the county does not receive federal funding because it provides vital safety net services to the most vulnerable residents who are disproportionately impacted by the novel coronavirus that causes the disease.

Portland official have said they anticipate receiving $100 million from the package, known as the CARES Act, which was signed by President Trump on March 27. Oregon expects to receive $1.25 billion and TriMet expects to receive $196 million from the act.

PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE - County Chair Deborah Kafoury talks online to the Portland Business Alliance.Kafoury spent most of the discussion updating PBA members on the county's response to the outbreak. She said her top priority was preventing its spread and praised county health officials and employees for their efforts, including tracking down people exposed to anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 and increasing emergency shelter capacity so homeless people staying in them can meet social-distancing requirements.

Kafoury and Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines told the members they were hopeful such efforts as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's stay-at-home order have slowed the spread of the virus. They would not predict when such restrictions might be lifted, however. Vines said cases could peak in late April or early May, and said she wanted to see what the situation looked like in the summer.

Kafoury said that ending the crisis was the best thing the county could do to help businesses that have been forced to cut back or close. The county has postponed the filing the deadline for business income taxes until July 15. It has also committed to continue paying its nonprofit contractors, even though their projects may be disrupted. Beyond that, Kafoury did not say the county was working on any other business relief proposals.

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