PENDLETON – Umatilla County’s government will receive $ 15.12 million from the latest federal stimulus package in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a database made available to EO Media Group, cities in Umatilla County are receiving a total of around $ 11.36 million. The funds are distributed by the population to each city, with the largest amounts going to Hermiston ($ 3.62 million) and Pendleton ($ 3.42 million).

Umatilla County officials said there are no plans for the county-level use of the funds. The county is expected to receive the first half of the funds in May with the remaining half about a year later, commissioners said.

“I was overwhelmed when I first saw how much we would get as a county,” said John Shafer, Umatilla county commissioner. “We can do a lot with this kind of money. We can make many positive changes. “

Umatilla County commissioners said discussions about where to go to fund have barely started.

“We’re really getting definitions of how it might be spent right now,” said Commissioner George Murdock, adding that the funds will go straight to the county rather than going through Salem, “where we might get some of it and maybe.” Not.”

The funds come from the US rescue plan approved by Congress on March 10th. At $ 1.9 trillion, this is one of the greatest poverty alleviation efforts in American history, aimed at fueling economic recovery in response to the pandemic and helping vulnerable Americans. Republican lawmakers largely oppose the bill for their liberal policies, according to the Associated Press.

According to the New York Times, the plan is set to not only provide hundreds of millions of Americans with one-time payments of $ 1,400 and unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week, but also to reduce national poverty by a third this year. Child poverty is also expected to be cut in half through a number of measures including expanding rental subsidies, grocery stamps, and tax credits for Americans with children.

“We now have an opportunity to benefit Oregon families and businesses by immediately investing state and federal resources to help them recover from the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Kate Brown early on this month about the plan.

Oregon’s state and local governments are expected to receive more than $ 4 billion from the plan. Brown has established principles that state that the funds should not only contribute to economic recovery, but also eliminate the existing inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, especially those related to gender and racial differences.

Although there are still concrete plans of all kinds to be made in Umatilla County, commissioners had some rough ideas about how the funds could be used, such as improving infrastructure and servicing the public health payments that have accumulated during the pandemic.

“The cost of running public health in Umatilla County has been significantly higher than on a normal basis over the past year,” Murdock said, noting that the health department currently has more than twice as many employees. “We’ll be able to use some of that money to offset the cost we had.”

Murdock said COVID-19 vaccinations in particular will be a “monumental task” for the county if all Americans over the age of 18 qualify for the Biden government’s May 1 target.

On the infrastructure front, Murdock and Shafer said the county may make changes and improvements to heating, ventilation and air conditioning in older buildings, which Murdock said is “specifically outlined in these funds.”

“It will be able to help us make some modernizations that we generally don’t have the resources to do in order to create a healthier environment,” he said.

Shafer said past budget negotiations explored the central water project near Hermiston, a pipeline that will deliver water from the Columbia River to farmland near Boardman that could enable economic growth. Shafer added that mental health services are also likely to be a “key factor” in the funding discussions.

Commissioner Dan Dorran said he would largely not speculate on how the funds might be used, stressing that “we have no money until it is in the bank”. However, Dorran said he had calls from special districts inquiring about the money.

“We need this discussion of what stimuli mean for the commissioners,” he said, adding that the commissioners “have no idea what the technical constraints will be (the funding). We heard it will be flexible, but We will only know that when we see the guidelines. “

Both Shafer and Murdock said they don’t want to use the money to add staff because the money is temporary.

“The (county) is not going to use the money to hire more staff,” Murdock said. “This is a one-time funding and if we hire more people next year we will of course say, ‘Oops, we don’t have that income. ‘And that doesn’t make sense. Whatever we do, there will be no spending coming home to sleep if the money doesn’t come in. “

Shafer said he wants the county residents to know that the commissioners “want to be good stewards of the money and that we are getting the most out of the deal for our money.” Shafer said discussions about the county’s use of the funds will most likely begin in mid-April.

“We don’t want to spend it lightly,” he said. “We want it to benefit Umatilla County as a whole.”