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By The Skanner News
Published: 04 March 2021

Since April 2020, the Oregon Worker Relief Fund has been a beacon of hope for Oregon’s immigrant communities. Already, the OWRF and Quarantine Fund have helped over 25,000 Oregonians and distributed over $40 million in aid. These funds have supported the thousands of undocumented Oregonians who are unable to access federal aid due to their legal status.

Now, the OWRF is looking to similarly support small business owners that have been impacted by COVID-19.

Through the Oregon Small Enterprise Fund, the OWRF program will distribute $10 million to support Oregon-based micro-enterprises, very small businesses and small businesses that were unable to access federal relief. To be eligible for this fund, businesses must be: 

  • At least partially owned by someone who uses an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or something similar to file their taxes
  • A business operating in Oregon
  • For-profit
  • A business that has experienced a decline in revenue since February 1, 2020 due to COVID impacts
  • Active and plan to remain operational

Since this fund is specifically targeted to business owners left out of federal relief programs, businesses that received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program will not be eligible to receive this aid.

Due to the success of the OWRF, the coalition overseeing the fund’s implementation is already excited about the impact this fund will have and anticipates a smooth rollout of this new program.

The Micro-Enterprise Fund will be integrated directly into the OWRF and applicants will call the same number, 1(888) 274-7292, to apply. They will be assigned a navigator and navigating organization (community-based organizations that are part of the OWRF coalition) that will help them through the rest of the process and determine their eligibility for a grant. Small business owners will then be eligible for a one-time grant and receive between $7,000 and $25,000 in aid if they meet all the criteria.

By integrating this new fund into the existing OWRF program, coalition leaders hope to leverage existing community connections and reach smaller businesses outside of traditional mediums.

“We know that we’re the organizations our community turns to in times of need,” explained Isa Peña, Interim Executive Director of Causa.

“This new fund provides an opportunity for our community to be served by people they trust and we truly believe this fund will be as successful as our Worker Relief Fund and Quarantine Fund.”

Already the fund is seeing some success as 14 businesses were chosen to be part of a pilot cohort and test the application process. 

“I haven’t had many sales throughout the pandemic and my business is at its tipping point. I’ve had my business for six years — six years of hard and constant work. I felt desperate, depressed, and very anxious as I felt I couldn't do anything to keep my business afloat,” said Carmen, one of the small business owners part of the pilot. “When I found out about this program and that I qualified, I felt really excited and happy!

"Receiving these funds will change my life as I would be able to keep my business.”

To ensure community members and business owners understand the new fund, the coalition has also planned a community forum on Saturday, March 6. They will explain the eligibility criteria, application process and have Representative Teresa Alonso-Leon talk about the inclusive COVID-19 relief efforts happening in the state. 

To learn more about the fund or support these efforts, visit the https://workerrelief.org/. Click or tap if you trust this link.">OWRF website. For the latest news on the program or to RSVP for the community forum, visit the Alivio Laboral de Oregon Facebook page.

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