U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Oregon (Malheur Enterprise photo)

ONTARIO – Congressman Cliff Bentz on Monday called on Gov. Kate Brown to reverse her decision to impose tighter restrictions on 15 Oregon counties that require restaurants to close.

The governor last week announced 15 counties were moved into the “extreme risk” category under her Covid metrics. The state rules in that circumstance restrict indoor dining, as well as limiting attendance for gyms and churches. 

Of the 20 counties that Bentz represents, eight are affected by the new restrictions. Those counties are Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, and Wasco. Malheur County is still under the “moderate risk” designation, which is less restrictive.

"Governor Kate Brown’s decision to again lockdown huge parts of Oregon has caused incredible frustration for many in my district, and I share their frustration,” said Bentz in a statement. “Today, nearly 70 percent of Oregon’s older population is fully vaccinated and many communities across our state were well on their way to safely returning to some sort of normal. However, Governor Brown has now done completely the opposite of many other states: imposing yet another lockdown.”

Bentz said that the $20 million in aid that Brown proposed making available for businesses suffering under the new restrictions was “woefully inadequate.” 

“I am calling upon Governor Brown to reverse this unfortunate decision and focus her attention instead on vaccinations and making sure that Covid aid sent to Oregon by the federal government be quickly allocated to those in need,” he said.

Bentz, a Republican from Ontario, voted against the American Rescue Plan that was approved by Congress in March. The plan included $28.6 billion for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help struggling restaurants and bars across the country.

Bentz noted that while it might seem unusual for a national representative to comment on state affairs, “in recent days, the Oregon Health Authority actually invited public input from Oregon’s congressional delegation.”

Charles Boyle, deputy communications director for Brown, said that “our office and OHA hold a biweekly meeting with the congressional delegation. Those meetings are an open dialogue in which we receive feedback from them.” 

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