State Takes Control of PPE Purchases From Cities

The Oregon state legislatures voted to spend $105 million to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prepare for anticipated COVID-19 needs. However, this decision adds to the ongoing tensions over allocations with local government advocacy groups like Association of Oregon Counties and League of Oregon Cities.   

“We are extremely concerned with the proposed expenditure… and urge you to allocate these funds directly to counties and other units of local government as intended,” Gina Firman Nikkel, executive director of the Association of Oregon Counties, wrote in a letter to lawmakers.  

Nikkel and the Association of Oregon Counties has been lobbying the state legislature to “ensure full funding intended for local government under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is delivered to counties through a fair and transparent process.”  

The state’s Department of Administrative Services plans to use the $105 million to purchase surgical gowns, face shields, N95 masks, and other PPE. These would be stored in a 100,000 square foot Wilsonville warehouse where staff would then distribute the equipment to counties, tribes, and hospitals. They’ve said that during the wide-spread shortage of PPE earlier in the year, DAS developed purchasing strategies and relationships with suppliers.   

“The state has spent months sourcing, buying, and stockpiling PPE for Oregonians across the state,” Liz Merah, a press secretary for Brown, told OPB. “We have prioritized providing PPE to counties at no cost — an approach unlike that of many other states where counties must procure their own.”  

According to the Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon received $1.635 billion to be allocated by the state and directly to local governments to assist with COVID-19 responses. The CARES act indicates as much as 45 percent be given to local governments with populations of 500,000 or more. Only the City of Portland and Washington and Multnomah counties qualified.