Portland and Multnomah County officials say they’re on track to spend all of the millions in federal coronavirus aid they’ve received as the end-of-year deadline looms.
Nearly $170 million poured into city and county coffers from the federal CARES Act since April, according to figures reviewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Any funds not used by Dec. 30 must be returned to the federal government.
The assurances by Oregon’s most populous city and county that they will not have to forfeit portions of the aid come as each scramble to exhaust their pandemic assistance in the home stretch.
Their task is all the more urgent, they say, because future federal assistance is not apparent on the near horizon.
“We’re not going to leave one dime on the table,” said Giyen Kim, a city project manager who is overseeing Portland’s coronavirus relief effort.
In July, the Portland City Council approved a spending plan for the $114 million in federal aid the city received.
It was a sweeping set of initiatives that included everything from grants to struggling businesses and artists, to food boxes and direct cash payments families, to placing more than 100 portable toilets and hygiene stations around Portland to serve the city’s homeless population.
As the city began spending the money, officials adjusted some of those plans, devoting more than initially projected to its homelessness response and Chromebooks for students but slightly less to housing stability.
[See below for a detailed list]
City officials also insisted the programs prioritize historically marginalized groups such as immigrants, communities of color and people with disabilities.
Portland had allocated 84% — or just over $99 million — of its relief money to these programs as of Dec. 8, according to documents obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive through a public records request.
“We fully anticipate we’ll spend down the remaining [balance] by month’s end,” Kim wrote in a report submitted to the mayor and city commissioners last week.
But Kim, who previously served as the city’s arts program manager, told The Oregonian/OregonLive the city won’t have a final, detailed account of every person and organization to receive the coronavirus aid until at least February.
The city partnered with more than 100 non-profits and community-based organizations to help identify recipients who qualified for relief and to ensure all assistance got out the door in time, Kim said.
Meanwhile, Multnomah County is also racing to the finish line.
Documents show the county received just over $104 million in federal coronavirus aid. Almost half of that money — $51.6 million — came from the city of Portland, which passed along a share of its federal allocation to help bolster the county’s public health, homelessness and rent assistance programs.
The state of Oregon, which received $1.6 billion in federal coronavirus aid, gave another $31.8 million directly to Multnomah County, documents show. That includes a last-minute infusion of nearly $8 million from the state to provide pandemic relief grants to local restaurants and other businesses.
Figures provided by the county show it had spent only $49.3 million, or less than half, of its federal funds through the end of November. Christian Elkin, the county’s budget director, said the county did not possess a more recent spending figure.
Elkin, however, said the county has allocated at least 93% of its coronavirus funds and was confident they’d have it all spent by Dec. 30.
“We’re following a strategy and a plan to make sure those funds are put into our community,” she said.
The county’s board of commissioners on Thursday finalized a plan to spend an outstanding balance of $30.8 million in relief aid by the end of the month.
Nearly half that money will cover payroll costs through the end of the fiscal year for public health and public safety workers dedicated to the county’s coronavirus response, a maneuver Elkin says is permitted under current guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The remaining money will go to cash assistance for vulnerable groups the county already works with as well as homeless services.
“We can’t afford to have any of these dollars go to waste,” County Chair Deborah Kafoury told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Friday. “The need will be even greater next year.”
However, it’s unclear when — or even if — more state and local coronavirus aid will arrive. While Congress inches toward a new $900 billion relief package, it does not include money for local governments to assist its residents.
That prospect makes Kim uneasy.
“We are the safety net for our most vulnerable through the end of the year,” she said. “After that, there’s nothing.”
CITY OF PORTLAND CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PROGRAMS
This is where the city’s federal allocation ended up.
Household Assistance ($22.5 million): Includes $500 gift cards for 32,000 low- and moderate-income Portlanders harmed by the pandemic, food boxes and meals for school-age children.
Homeless Response ($20.6 million): Provides funding for city and county’s homeless-related services, including shelters at city-run community centers, city-sanctioned outdoor camp sites and portable hygiene stations.
Public Health ($20 million): Direct aid to Multnomah County’s COVID-19 response, which includes testing, contact tracing and client support.
Housing Stability ($16.7 million): Includes direct aid to Multnomah County’s rent assistance program, mortgage counseling to help people avoid foreclosure and mortgage assistance for residents who are Black, Indigenous or other people of color.
Business Support ($15.5 million): Includes direct aid and block grants to struggling small businesses as well as relief funds for sports and other mass gathering venues.
Emergency Coordination Center Response ($6.6 million): Includes personal protective equipment as well as cleaning and disinfecting supplies for city first responders.
Digital Divide ($5 million): Provides more than 4,000 Chromebook laptops and iPads to families without internet access or a computer as well as technology support and vouchers for internet service.
East County Cities ($5 million): Provides rent, utility and public health assistance to Multnomah County’s five other cities — Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village and Maywood Park.
Arts & Culture ($4.3 million): Includes grants for artists who are Black, Indigenous and other people of color and financial aid to city arts and culture venues, including the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and other members of the so-called Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.
Public Health Outreach ($550,000): Includes a public health awareness campaign with advertising and billboards on the city’s transit system and public right of way.
MULTNOMAH COUNTY CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PROGRAMS
Public Health Response ($37 million, including $32.3 million from state and city of Portland): Includes funding for contact tracing staff, community health workers, field testing and behavioral health.
Rent Relief Program ($26.4 million from state and city of Portland): Provides assistance to renters in Multnomah County.
Safety On and Off the Street ($25.1 million, including $17.2 million from city of Portland): Provides funding for motel shelters and services and homeless outreach.
Wrap Around & Support Services ($8.4 million): Includes funding for food, cash assistance and other emergency aid for vulnerable populations identified by the county.
State Business Relief Program ($7.6 million from state): Includes grants to struggling local restaurants and food cards, assistance to minority-owned businesses and aid to business in East County.
— Shane Dixon Kavanaugh; 503-294-7632
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