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Workers make preparations at a vaccination clinic at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Roseburg in January.

The governments of local cities and the county are about to receive millions in funding from the latest federal COVID-19 stimulus package.

But nobody knows yet just what they’ll be allowed to do with the money.

City and county government leaders told us they’re waiting for guidelines from the federal government, but they’ve got some ideas about how they hope they can spend the dollars.

The American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 stimulus package that was passed by Congress this year, is perhaps best known for the $1,400 relief checks it will send to individuals.

But another feature of the plan is that local governments, too, will receive funds. Cities and counties across the nation are expecting payments.

In Douglas County, all 12 cities will receive payments, ranging from $40,000 for Elkton on the low end to $4.79 million for Roseburg on the high end.

Douglas County government is set to receive $21.52 million.

The payments will come in two installments, one this year and one next year.

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said as the Local Public Health Authority, the county’s first responsibility is to make sure public health needs are met.

And that means taking care of the pandemic response is the top priority he will recommend for the payments the county will receive from the package.

Freeman said it has cost the county millions of dollars to oversee the pandemic response here.

“Nobody else can do that. No other group. The Oregon Health Authority is not here in Douglas County doing public health response. We are responsible for that. We are paying for that,” he said.

The county contracts and pays for the services of the private nonprofit Douglas Public Health Network, which boosted its team from about six employees to about 40. The network brought on epidemiologists to track cases and try to prevent the disease’s spread as well as support staff to take care of the needs of county residents who remained in quarantine after exposure to the virus.

The county also pays for the vaccine clinics, including mass clinics at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and pop-up clinics in rural areas.

And the pandemic isn’t over yet. Freeman said he would like to see some of the stimulus package funds saved to deal with future challenges the pandemic could bring, and for unforeseen emergencies that could come up in the future.

He said his third priority would be to replace revenue that was lost as the county continued to maintain its other services at the level they were before the pandemic.

Roseburg City Manager Nikki Messenger said she hopes the city will be able to use the money for economic development.

“It’s super exciting. The possibilities feel endless right now. That’s why we’re waiting for the rules to get that reined in so we can see what fits,” she said.

Items at the top of her wish list would include a sobering center, sustainable funding for the three-year-old mobile crisis unit and the proposed med ed college.

For Roseburg, with an annual general fund budget of $27 million, $4.79 million over two years is a substantial boost, about six times the $770,000 it received from the CARES Act stimulus funding.

Mark Bauer, city manager of Winston, said when he learned his city was to receive $1.12 million, it was a relief. It’s money that will make a big difference in a town whose general fund budget is about $2.5 million a year.

“It was one of those ‘Yahoo’ moments,” he said.

One thing he’d like to see the money spent on is software to manage the city’s website. He also wants some new software to support the court system to enable better communication with customers.

Myrtle Creek City Manager Sean Negherbon said the city has a list of ideas for how it might like to spend its $710,000.

One possibility is to install a splash pad at the city pool.

“It’s a pretty good-sized chunk of change, so it could definitely pay for that splash pad and then have some left over,” he said.

It was an abnormal year for the kids, he said, and it would be nice to do something for them to help make up for it.

Still, like the other governments, Myrtle Creek doesn’t yet know what it can do with the money.

“We have not received any official guidance at all on how it can be spent. So we’re playing it by ear,” he said.

Here’s how much each city and county government in Douglas County is expected to receive:

  • Douglas County: $21.52 million
  • Canyonville: $400,000
  • Drain: $240,000
  • Elkton: $40,000
  • Glendale: $180,000
  • Myrtle Creek: $710,000
  • Oakland: $190,000
  • Reedsport: $840,000
  • Riddle: $250,000
  • Roseburg: $4.79 million
  • Sutherlin: $1.67 million
  • Winston: $1.12 million
  • Yoncalla: $220,000

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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(8) comments

familyfarm

I sure hope we can closely monitor where/how the county commissioners spend their portion. I have little faith in their ethics and abilities.

Mike

I somewhat agree. I have faith in their abilities, but not in their ethics.

Kter-pot-taters

Definitely should have transparency. Last round bought brand new Microsoft surfaces for management.

P&Z

I don't have faith in their ethics. We are due for another audit.

Mike

There are literally hundreds of individual Douglas County businesses that received more federal Paycheck Protection Program money than most of the cities on this list.

NJ

Is it okay to continue to say the obvious. I know some would like to forget it, but I really think it bears repeating. T**** set up the Payroll Protection Program in 2020 specifically to not have any oversight of who got what in an effort to allow these huge payouts by way of this clearly intentional money grab. Banks were in league in their management of the funds by choosing who got what for the bank's benefit rather than the small Mom and Pop businesses who needed it more. Deduction concludes that it was nothing more than taking from the lower income higher-taxed to gift toward the wealthy lower-taxed. That sums up exactly what T**** was and still is all about. And yet to some taxpayers who paid the price of this reverse Robin Hood maneuver still see him as their savior who personally help them. It's a mystery to me as to why.

Mike

I was hoping you would repeat the obvious for those who missed it the first time.

George Weston

I don't want to here these leaders complaining when taxes go up to pay for this. They want taxpayer money, but they don't want to pay for it.

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