By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
On Monday I joined a seventh Emergency Board meeting to disburse what is likely the last of 1.6 billion from federal CARES dollars intended to help Oregon address COVID.
Each of the votes I have taken on the E Board supported projects presented by legislative leadership: help small business, respond to an increase in domestic violence, emergency housing, improve broadband, help disproportionately impacted communities, and even to support entertainment venues who have lost ticket sales. Quite honestly, these are good projects and it would be hard to vote against any of them. Most passed with wide bi-partisan support. But lack of clear guidelines from the federal government on use of these dollars has created competition and predictable conflicts over their use.
Since the meetings started in March, coastal representatives and senators have been voicing concerns that funds are disproportionately benefiting Portland. Now as the process winds to a close, the League of Oregon Cities has released an analysis that confirms our concerns.
Portland – received $114,247,256 directly from the feds. They have 657,100 residents. So Portland received $173 per capita.
City of Newport received $447,653 for 10,285 residents, or $43 per capita. Lincoln County will receive $2,253,979 for 48,260 people. Between city and county allocations a resident of Newport is effectively receiving $90 per capita while the number for Lincoln County outside any city limits is $46.
City of Tillamook received $156,060 for 4,935 residents, or $31 per capita. Tillamook County is eligible for $841,208 for 26,500 people. Between city and county allocations a resident of the City of Tillamook is effectively receiving $63 per capita while the number for Tillamook County outside any city limits is $31.
Sheridan will receive a maximum of $188,446 for 6,205 residents, or $30 per capita. Yamhill County is eligible for $3,645,155 for 108,060 people. Between city and county allocations a resident of Sheridan is effectively receiving $64 per capita while the number for Yamhill County outside any city limits is $33.
As the Monday meeting wound to a close, I asked to speak. “I fear that we may have lost sight of the bigger picture,” I said. “There has been an undercurrent of concern that the projects we have approved have disproportionately benefited the city of Portland at the expense of other counties and other cities throughout the state.”
Earlier I had worked with the Coastal Caucus to present a proposal addressing unique problems and needs along the coast where unemployment is the highest in the state. But that proposal was not approved by legislative leadership.
Forty-seven of the Legislature’s 90 lawmakers have now called for the money to go directly to local governments to spend on their COVID-19 priorities instead of funding specific projects dictated by the state. I joined 18 Democrats signing that letter. But at this late date, there is little federal money left to distribute.
I encourage you to listen to Senator Betsy Johnson and myself discuss the Emergency Board and recent legislative sessions in her weekly podcast.
If you lived anywhere else, wouldn’t you want to visit here? Everyone agrees that traffic to the coast is exploding. Between heat waves in the valley, pent-up COVID angst, and the difficulty of traveling elsewhere, we’re experiencing a tsunami of cars flooding our waysides, road shoulders, and neighborhoods.
Tuesday morning I met with the Director of Oregon State Parks, the Superintendent of the Oregon State Police, the manager of all state beaches, the regional manager of ODOT, county commissioners and county sheriffs.
There is no simple answer to this pervasive problem. It is proving impossible to keep people away, and when we close one area to parking, they shift to other sometimes more dangerous areas. Parks is struggling to collect trash and keep restrooms clean. Police and sheriff resources are spread thin and focused on public safety. We are stepping up education and signage to encourage positive visitor behavior.
High temperatures in the valley are easing and a forecast of some rain at the coast should reduce pressure this weekend.
Dollars in the District: Earlier this week I shared details on one-time $500 relief payments available to anyone still waiting for employment benefits. Funds are limited and being disbursed on a first-come, first served basis. The financial institutions in our district that have agreed to participate are OnPoint Community Credit Union in McMinnville (for residents of Sheridan), Umpqua Bank in Newport, Umpqua Bank in Tillamook, and Columbia Bank in Waldport. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria or call 211 and ask about the Emergency Relief Check Program.
$16 million in CARES Act funding is being made available to Oregon’s marine-related and coastal fishery businesses impacted by COVID-19. Most fresh seafood is sold to restaurants and our restaurants are operating at half capacity. This targeted investment will be a big help to a critical industry.
Adventist Health in Tillamook has been awarded a $1 million opioid response grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is big news and will support work over the next three years to address substance abuse in Tillamook County.
Shake Alert to Provide Early Earthquake Warnings: I have long been a supporter of the Shake Alert system designed to give earlier warnings of earthquakes. Washington and California are already using this system and I was pleased our Oregon legislature approved funding earlier this month.
Our investment will make sure Oregon has state-of-the-art technology from the U.S. Geological Survey that will offer earlier warnings and allow precious time to save lives. Check out this link to see how the system will work, and this guide from the Red Cross on how to be two week ready! Here is also a fun activity book for kids to help teach them how to prepare for an earthquake.
Weekly Shout Out: The Seashore Family Literacy program was started in Waldport by Senitila McKinley, a Tongan Islander who came to this country speaking little English. I’m told that after she had learned more herself, she saw a need for literacy support here, and started a program dedicated to helping children, adults and families improve reading, writing, math, computer and communication skills. She also saw there was a nutrition problem among her students and began working with other relief organizations on a local food program. They now provide hot meals to students in Waldport. Seashore’s community garden and outdoor classroom serves as a source for fresh produce. Click here to learn more about Seashore Family Literacy.
There is plenty of good news during these challenging times. Each week I’ll try to recognize a local individual or group that is working to make life in our district better, safer, or more resilient. If you have a nominee, please let us know.
address: 900 Court St NE, H-471, Salem, OR, 97301