Multnomah County could see funding cut after Portland named ‘anarchist jurisdiction’

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Oct. 22, 2020 1:42 a.m.

Trump administration eyes county grant money as it seeks to gut so-called “anarchist” cities like Portland.

Federal officers confront people protesting racism and police violence in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse on July 12, 2020. Earlier in the night, federal law enforcement officers shot a demonstrator in the head with a "less lethal" impact munition, causing severe injury.

Federal officers confront people protesting racism and police violence in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse on July 12, 2020.

Jonathan Levinson / OPB

The White House has taken another step toward pulling federal funding from Portland, one of the handful of liberal-leaning cities the Trump administration has deemed “anarchist jurisdictions.”


Politico reported Wednesday that the administration is looking to cut funding for health programs that provide screenings for newborns and treatment for coronavirus and HIV in New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland.

According to Politico, the administration has honed in on a $1.8 million grant to assist health centers treating COVID-19 patients in the Portland region.

But that money wasn’t supposed to flow to the city, which was officially declared an “anarchist jurisdiction” late last month. The money goes to Multnomah County, which receives a sizable chunk of its budget for health care from the federal government.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said county leaders haven’t received a formal indication that the White House is looking to cut the county’s funds, but she said she believes the Politico article is referring to grant money that was meant to reimburse clinics that were providing migrant care and HIV work for losses incurred during the pandemic.


“First of all I would love to tell the president that Multnomah County is not the city of Portland,” Kafoury said. “And Multnomah County serves residents of many cities, not just people who live in Portland.”

She noted this is not the first time Multnomah County has been dragged into the spotlight as the president takes aim at Portland. Trump has repeatedly criticized Portland leaders for their response to racial justice protests.

“The president referred to the Multnomah County sheriff as the sheriff of Portland, so I think there’s some confusion about what the different forms of government actually do,” Kafoury said.

Kafoury said the county is looking to see if there’s legal action available if these cuts come to fruition. The county successfully sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the past over restrictions on grant money. In 2018, the county argued that it wasn’t legal for the administration to insist grants to prevent teen pregnancy be funneled into abstinence-only programs.

The U.S. Department of Justice had announced in September that it planned to limit federal funding “to the maximum extent permitted by law” in places where they felt local elected officials weren’t cracking down hard enough on criminal activity. With the November election fast approaching, the president has regularly sought to stoke fear around protests that have erupted in liberal cities this summer.

The DOJ release had listed a series of factors that had led the agency to declare Portland an anarchy-permitting jurisdiction. These included sustained protests “marred by vandalism, chaos, and even killing,” a rise in shootings, an August letter in which Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler rejected the deployment of federal officers, and a $15 million cut from the Portland Police Bureau’s budget.

“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” wrote Attorney General William Barr in statement announcing Portland would be one of three cities initially labeled an anarchist jurisdiction.

After the announcement, Portland’s city attorney said the city was determining next steps. The city has since sued the Department of Justice along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the use of federal law enforcement at protests.