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Restaurant revenue in Oregon has plummeted since the start of the pandemic. Loans to Black-owned businesses in Oregon have also plummeted since 2010, according to the Small Business Administration. (photo courtesy of Batter on Deck)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 22 October 2020

The Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency is distributing the first round of funding this month to Black families, businesses and nonprofits throughout all 36 counties.

oregon cares fund chart1“The Council of Trust is thrilled that The Oregon Cares Fund is starting to deliver the first round of COVID relief awards to Black Oregonians. These grants will help Black families, businesses and nonprofits that are not only dealing with economic harm caused by the pandemic, but generations of financial discrimination,” said Dr. Tyler TerMeer, CEO of the Cascade AIDS Project. “We are in the process of notifying award recipients.”

The Fund is a targeted effort to help Black-owned businesses, families and nonprofits survive financial harm from the pandemic. The Black community has been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19, and federal relief funds did not flow equally to the Black community. The fund was spearheaded by Oregon’s Black leaders and approved by the Oregon legislature.

There are still funds available, and leaders of the Fund are encouraging all Black Oregonians to submit applications as soon as possible. Due to strong interest, there are no guarantees that funding will remain available for all applicants. All funds must be awarded to grantees by Dec 30, and it is expected that all funds will be granted well before that date.

“Black Oregonians throughout the state should apply now because these funds will not be available forever,” said Angel Harris, president of the Corvallis/Albany branch of the NAACP.

“Whether you’re in Portland, Medford, Corvallis, Bend or beyond, these funds will help you, your family, your business and your community weather the current economic storm.”

The organization asks that those who have applied but haven’t heard back yet, to please be patient. The Fund received thousands of applications, many of which are still being evaluated. When you receive approval, the email subject will state: “ACTION NEEDED - Your Application has been Approved.” Check your spam folder. Also note that The Oregon Cares Fund is not the same as the Black Resilience Fund.

About the fund

The Oregon Cares Fund is a targeted grant program available to help Black individuals and families, Black business owners and Black-led nonprofits across Oregon weather the financial harm caused by COVID-19.

The $62 million fund was made available through the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board, who voted in July to allocate an additional $200 million from the federally funded CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund toward specific communities and sectors of the economy. Oregon has received a total of almost $1.4 billion in federally funded COVID-19 relief through a mixture of direct payments to citizens, businesses and more.

The Council of Trust, composed of eleven Black leaders from across Oregon, is charged with guiding the fund. The fund distribution will be carried out by two nonprofits – The Contingent and The Black United Fund – and those two nonprofits must disburse all funds by Dec. 30, 2020. Applicants must demonstrate economic harm caused by the pandemic and prove residency in the state of Oregon. Applications will be reviewed in three application periods. Due to the high volume, it will take a few weeks after submission for applicants to receive funding notifications.

The Oregon Cares Fund highlights the strength of a diverse leadership coalition aligned on behalf of the Black community’s interests. This investment was championed in the legislature by Rep. Akasha Lawrence Spence and Rep. Janelle Bynum, Black leaders across the state, and thousands of Oregon constituents.

For more information or to apply, visit thecontingent.org/oregon-cares.

The need for The Oregon Cares Fund

Even before COVID-19, twice as many Black Oregonians were living in poverty than white Oregonians. The global pandemic has widened and exacerbated the longstanding inequities that existed before the virus, hitting Black Americans harder than whites in terms of job and wage loss, the amount of financial reserves on hand and the ability to pay monthly bills. According to state data, in the past two months approximately four times as many Black Oregonians have contracted COVID-19 than white Oregonians.

The Black business community is less likely to have access to loans and traditional capital and has also received proportionally less COVID-19 federal aid.

  • Nationally, twice as many Black-owned businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic compared to small businesses overall -- 41% compared to 22%, according to Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • In one survey of 500 Black and Latinx business owners, done by Color of Change, only 8% of Black small businesses received the full federal assistance they requested.
  • Despite a traditional lack of investment from banks, Black Oregonians are becoming entrepreneurs in ever-increasing numbers. The number of Black-owned businesses still grew by 25% in Oregon from 2007 to 2012, according to the Small Business Administration.

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