More than two hundred small businesses will receive grants from the Portland Small Business Relief Fund (SBRF), established with $1 million in general fund dollars authorized by Portland City Council on March 18.
The process generated 8,777 eligible grant applications.
The Portland Small Business Relief Fund was created to support small businesses in sectors that have been directly impacted by the necessary COVID-19 public health requirements. It prioritizes businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, Asian Pacific Islander and all People of Color (BIPOC) and women, taking an intersectional approach.
In light of the racial wealth gap and structural barriers to access to capital, the review committee, made up of community members and city staff, applied an equity lens while prioritizing economic relief, using the priorities established in collaboration with the Economic Impact and Intervention Task Force: employee support, business stability, impact of the dollars, and use of the dollars. Businesses for whom resources would help them stay in business and businesses that continue to pay employees and/or continue to provide their employees’ healthcare and other insurance also received priority.
Grants of $2,500 went to 100 community-serving businesses with a single employee, many of which had furloughed workers that the owner hopes to re-employ. Recipients range from childcare and preschool providers to health and wellness services to local food carts, consumer product makers and coffeehouses.
The remaining grants of $5,000 and $10,000 will support businesses with between two and 26 or more employees; the grants assist businesses taking extraordinary measures to help their employees. Several businesses receiving these grants, for example, are using their personal resources to pay for employees’ food, personal protective equipment and salaries.
Recipients received notification of their successful applications on Tuesday, April 7, and will receive funds by Friday, April 10, from one of three disbursement partners: Mercy Corps NW, Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon and Craft3.
Combined with the previously announced grants to Jade District and Old Town/Chinatown businesses through Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Prosper Portland has provided $1.14 million in relief funds to 241 businesses over the past three weeks. An additional round of grant recipients using more than $300,000 in funds provided by local banks to the Oregon Community Foundation will be finalized later this week.
The selection process was driven by a clear recognition that Black, Indigenous and all People of Color communities, individuals with disabilities, and individuals experiencing poverty are often disproportionately affected by economic crisis, and by a strong desire to ensure the current crisis does not exacerbate existing inequities. In the last recession, unemployment rates almost doubled for all major race and ethnicity groups, with communities of color experiencing unemployment at percentages far higher than the average.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said, “Helping the most vulnerable in our city defines us as a community. Thank you to Prosper Portland and our partners on the thoughtful, balanced process that inspired selection of these businesses. I also want to thank the review committee for working around the clock over the past four days to ensure a quick and equitable process for the consideration and selection of these businesses. I call on our city’s private, philanthropic and community partners to continue to collaborate with us in support of the small businesses that fuel our city.”
“As businesses and workers continue hurting in this time, I’m appreciative of the swift action Prosper Portland and Council took to offer this small business relief fund. I also want to applaud Prosper Portland’s process in selecting the grantees – we know during times of crisis businesses owned by people of color and women are hit first and hardest, and have longer recovery periods, while lacking access to traditional funding sources,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “While not every request could be met, this relief fund is a crucial measure while we await additional resources for our communities.”
“I thank all the businesses for their efforts and energy in applying; we hear you, and we know you are struggling,” said Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “To the recipients, it is the Council’s hope that these small grants will alleviate some of the operational gaps you have been challenged with during this time; I celebrate your resilient nature and your commitment to your business, employees and patrons. Thank you.”
Prosper Portland Executive Director Kimberly Branam said, “The needs of the small business community are immense. Throughout the grant selection process, we tried to find a balance between the number of businesses we could help and investments that would meaningfully support each business. We appreciate City Council’s leadership, the efforts of the review committee, and our nimble partners who enabled us to move quickly. Given the tremendous needs our businesses face, we will continue to work tirelessly with partners to increase access to federal, state and local resources in the weeks and months ahead.”
Prosper Portland’s $1 million SBRF loan program will open Wednesday, April 8 at 9:00 a.m. All applicants to the SBRF grant program, whether awarded or not, are eligible to apply for these additional funds.