UMATILLA COUNTY — Democrats may be throwing in the towel on this year’s legislative session, but Eastern Oregon will still get its flood recovery funding from the state.
Democrats ended the session three days early on Thursday after Republicans signaled they did not plan to return from their walk-out unless cap and trade was taken off the table. But Umatilla County Commissioner John Shafer said he received a call from Gov. Kate Brown in the afternoon letting him know that the legislature’s emergency board would convene Monday to allocate money from its emergency fund for flood recovery.
“There was no hesitation on leadership’s part on either side to give those funds,” Shafer said.
The money in Brown’s proposal includes $4 million for the “expedited purchase and installation of manufactured homes” to replace homes destroyed in February’s flood; $1 million in “rapid rehousing funds” for immediate needs; $500,000 for low- or no-interest loans for damage costs not covered by flood insurance; $1.5 million to help affected businesses reopen; and $2 million to be released after a community plan is developed. The city of Pendleton had already been allocated $1.8 million for repairs to its levee.
“A lot of people lost their homes to this flood, and with this money they will have an opportunity to have a place to call home again,” Shafer said.
Commissioner George Murdock said the county would work with numerous partners, including affected cities and the Community Action Program of East Central Oregon, in putting the money to good use. He echoed Shafer’s point that many Umatilla County residents are still living with friends and family or in other “pretty shaky” housing situations.
He also said the money from the state would not take the county’s focus off of also pursuing federal disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the assistance of Rep. Greg Walden, Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley. The county’s road department has been hard at work making area roads and bridges usable again, but there are still tens of millions of dollars in damage to be repaired.