Portland prioritizes federal COVID-19 spending

Multnomah County

Largest portion proposed for Multnomah County

FILE – In this June 25, 2020, file photo, a physician assistant prepares to collect a nasal swab sample from a patient for COVID-19 testing at Xpress Urgent Care in Tustin, Calif. The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the initial weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running out again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The City Council is scheduled to finish spending $144 million in emergency federal COVID-19 response funding on Wednesday, July 15.

City records filed Tuesday show the largest portion — $39.1 million — is proposed for Multnomah County. That would include $20 million for public health services and $19.1 million for serving the homeless.

Other large categories include: $20.4 million for assisting low-income households; $17 million for housing stability assistance; and $15 million for business support.

In addition, $5 million would be targeted for cities in East Multnomah County, $4.4 million would be spent supporting arts and cultural organizations, and $3.5 million would go toward helping low-income households bridge the digital divide.

The money is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding approved by Congress. It cannot be used to replace revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic but must fund responses to it.

The $39.1 million is especially critical to Multnomah County, which is leading the public health response to the pandemic and working to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the homeless population. Only the State of Oregon and City of Portland qualified for CARES funding.

“As a result of the social distancing mandates require by the State and around the nation, our region has experienced the most severe economic downturn in the past century. With hundreds of businesses required to temporarily close or scale down, Multnomah County’s unemployment went from a historically low rate of 3.2% in February 2020 to 15.2% in April, resulting over approximately 123,000 individuals without jobs and at risk,” the ordinance the council will consider says.

According to the ordinance, the East Multnomah County assistance program is called PDX-CARES and is intended to help traditionally marginalized communities.

“PDX-CARES household and business relief programs shall be used to assist Portland’s most vulnerable populations and to the maximum extent possible, priority shall be given to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) families and individuals, BIPOC businesses, homeless and houseless communities and people with disabilities,” the ordinance reads.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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