News and Commentary

‘Historic First Step’: Oregon Offers Race-Based Coronavirus Relief Fund
Oregon State Capitol
eyecrave via Getty Images

The Oregon State Legislature approved a coronavirus relief fund for which only black people and black-owned businesses are eligible.

The Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency was approved last month by the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board as part of $200 million it allocated to specific communities and parts of the economy, according to local Portland NBC affiliate KGW.

“The Oregon Cares Fund has been organized by the leaders of Oregon’s Black community,” the fund’s website says. “Now, more than ever, it is critical that the Federal dollars from the CARES Act serve to honor and protect those individuals, families, business owners, and non-profit leaders who are what make Oregon great. We will be serving tens of thousands of Oregonians in a short period of time.”

The money, according to the fund’s website, comes from “the U.S. Treasury’s disbursement of Coronavirus Relief Funds received by the State of Oregon under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

The website further explains:

Grants will vary in size for individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofits, depending on the information submitted in the application. Individuals and families may be eligible to receive grants of $1,000, $2,000, or $3,000, depending on financial impacts of COVID-19 and family size. Businesses or nonprofits with employees will receive grants based off of the amount of lost revenue due to COVID-19 and additional COVID-19-related expenses.

Applications for the money are reportedly flooding in, with “4,300 applications from individuals and 120 applications from businesses on Monday,” KGW reported. Those who want to participate have to prove that they are from Oregon and have been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and “may be required to submit reports or other documentation on how the funds were spent,” the fund says.

Disbursement of the grants will be determined by an all-black Council of Trust. “Made up of 11 trusted Black leaders from across Oregon, the Council of Trust works with The Contingent to assure equitable administration of the Fund,” according to the website.

Sharon Gary-Smith, who is one of the Council of Trust members, told KGW, “This is a wonderful, deserved, and appropriate step to address the harm caused by COVID-19 on the Black community. Black Oregonians have had monumental losses in spirit, hope, community, and resources due to centuries of racial injustice and discrimination.” 

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

Related: REPORT: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Considered Telling Police To Stand Down As Riots Ravaged Downtown

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