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In this photo, Keacean Phillips, owner of Jamaican Homestyle Cuisine, poses outside of her restaurant located on North Killingsworth. (Photo by R. Dallon Adams)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 25 August 2020

Applications are now live for The Oregon Cares Fund (TOCF) for Black Relief and Resiliency. The targeted grant program is available to help Black people, Black business owners and Black-led nonprofits throughout Oregon weather the financial harm caused by COVID-19.

The fund

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.

“This is a historic first step to address the disparities facing Black Oregonians in the face of COVID-19,” says Rep. Akasha Lawrence Spence (D-Portland) and member of the Council of Trust.

“Oregon has underinvested in its Black citizens for far too long.

"From this moment forward, our state must commit to continued investment in the health and economic well-being of our communities throughout this pandemic, in the recovery efforts, and for as long as it takes to finally close the inequities that have crippled Black Oregonians for generations.”

The data

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.

“This is a wonderful, deserved, and appropriate step to address the harm caused by COVID-19 on the Black community,” says Sharon Gary-Smith, former executive director of the MRG Foundation and member of the Council of Trust. “Black Oregonians have had monumental losses in spirit, hope, community, and resources due to centuries of racial injustice and discrimination.”

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.

“Especially right now, Black business leaders face an uphill battle.

"But we know with targeted investment, this community has incredible resiliency and creativity. This relief fund will help Black businesses weather the economic storm caused by the virus,” said Stephen Green, entrepreneur and member of the Council of Trust.

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 appy, visit thecontingent.org/oregon-cares.

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