Katrina Rothenberger, incident commander, holds up an activity log at the Marion County Health and Human Services COVID-19 incident command on Monday, July 13. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Before the pandemic, Susan McLauchlin supervised Marion County’s health promotion and prevention team. The team worked with members of the community to help prevent suicide, substance abuse and other risky behaviors.  

But after Marion County began seeing cases of Covid, McLauchlin was designated at the liaison deputy for the Covid response, connecting community members with the team responsible for handling the county’s response to the pandemic.  

All the staff she had previously overseen have been reassigned to new tasks related to Covid and now McLauchlin has been fielding questions from community groups ranging from school reopening to workplace guidance.  

She’s one of many county and city employees who have seen their job duties shift in recent months and have a portion of their salaries reimbursed through federal CARES Act funding.   

The act, passed in late March, was a $2 trillion relief package to help Americans cope with the pandemic and associated job losses. Funds have paid for stimulus checks and small business loans, including a total of $339 billion designated to reimburse state and local governments for extra costs.   

The bulk of the CARES funding flowing into the region for reimbursement so far has been spent on employee costs incurred from changing duties during the pandemic.  

Marion County has been reimbursed $4.1 million so far out of $11.3 million promised by the state for expenditures incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30.  

So far, the county has spent $2.2 million on costs for staffing the county’s Health and Human Services Department Operations Center, hiring additional contact tracers, disease investigation, implementing safety protocols at the jail and coordinating distribution of protective gear.  

The county is also using money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's public assistance Covid grant on the county’s motel program at the Super 8 in Woodburn. 

The county is spending $6,723 a day for rooms at the Super 8 Motel in Woodburn to house those who are sick with Covid but have nowhere to isolate.  

The county’s contract with the motel, which ends on March 31, 2021, is not to exceed $2.1 million. There’s also a contract with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office to patrol the motel that’s not to exceed $550,000 and a contact with Advanced Security not to exceed $75,000.  

Another $1 million was awarded to small businesses as grants, administered through the government-funded workforce development nonprofit Willamette Workforce Partnership.  

The county spent $232,000 on protective equipment and $153,000 for daily disinfection of public spaces and facilities.  

Nearly $200,000 was spent to ensure county employees could telework and the health department could provide telehealth appointments to patients.  

The county also spent $136,000 for federally mandated sick leave for employees impacted by Covid.  

Salem was reimbursed for $2.2 million in expenditures through CARES funding so far. The bulk of the money — $1.8 million — was spent on payroll for employees doing Covid work.   

For example, Salem firefighters who respond to Covid calls are reimbursed through the federal funding, Salem Fire Department spokesman Gabe Benmoussa said.   

The city also spent $351,653 to allow employees to telework and another $2,976 for employee’s Covid testing.  

Salem has spent $9,372 on portable toilets and sanitizing stations for people camping in Wallace Marine and Cascades Gateway parks. The city was reimbursed for $5,476 it spent on disinfecting public spaces.   

The city has spent nearly $7,000 to deliver food to Salem residents through the city-run senior center, Center 50+.  

In Polk County, CARES funding reimbursed $628,144 in employee related costs and $288,471 on building modifications, telework capabilities, distance learning, telemedicine and disinfection of public areas. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated where funding for the motel program came from due to incorrect information provided by the county.

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Have a story tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.