Merkley, Murray, Wyden, Walden Announce Spending Bill to Advance Rural Business Development Funding for the Columbia River Gorge

WASHINGTON, DC — Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representative Greg Walden (R-OR-5), today announced that the 2020 spending bill passed by Congress will include $2 million in new funding for rural business development grants, with priority given to National Scenic Areas that have been devastated by wildfires, such as the Columbia River Gorge.

This funding is intended to be used by entities such as the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District to create revolving loan funds to help support local Gorge businesses as they recover and grow following the Eagle Creek Fire.

“I’ve been fighting for a long time to help the Gorge get the economic development assistance that was supposed to come with the scenic area, and it’s more important than ever after the Eagle Creek Fire,” said Merkley, who serves on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which directs federal spending. “Wildfire can be devastating for any small business, but it’s particularly devastating in areas like the Gorge, where the economy is interconnected with outdoor recreation. This assistance will make sure the small businesses that are the heart and soul of our local Gorge economies can come back stronger than ever.”

“These resources are a must for the full recovery of the Gorge’s businesses from the devastation of the Eagle Creek wildfire,” Wyden said. “Many of these job-creating businesses play key roles in the Gorge’s world-renowned recreation economy and I am gratified that our work to help them continue to grow has succeeded.”

“The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area is one of our most treasured natural areas in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m glad to see Congress allocate these funds to support economic development in the region and aid its continued recovery following the tragic Eagle Creek Fire,” Murray said. “I’m thankful to my colleagues in Oregon for their work on this issue and their partnership throughout the years to bolster communities along both sides of the Columbia River Gorge, and I won’t stop pushing for stronger federal investments to continue moving these critical efforts forward.”

“I was glad to work with Senator Merkley and our colleagues across the river in Washington to fight for this remaining funding owed to our communities under the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area Act,” Walden said. “As the area continues to recover from the effects of the Eagle Creek Fire, these funds are all the more important and I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law.”  

“I appreciate the hard work of our Senators, Representatives, and the advocacy from many of our community partners who understand the critical function this expanded access to capital plays in the ability for the Gorge economy to continue to thrive and prosper,” said Amanda Hoey, Executive Director of the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District.

The 2020 spending bill has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and has been signed into law by the president.