Prosper Portland, the city's economic development agency, began taking applications this morning for what is likely to be the first of several rounds of relief assistance to businesses and individuals affected by the novel coronavirus.
The initial round is small—grants of $2,000 to $10,000—and aimed at giving a lifeline to 150 to 200 very small businesses (less than $2 million in annual gross revenue and fewer than 50 employees).
The city of Portland and Prosper Portland are each contributing $1 million to the Small Business Relief Fund. Of the $2 million in public money, half will go to grants and half to no-interest loans.
At a press conference Monday morning, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that several banks that do business in Oregon (JPMorgan Chase, US Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, KeyBank, Columbia Bank and Umpqua Bank) are contributing to the small business grant program as well, a total of $335,000 so far. Umpqua is also contributing $675,000 to the loan portion of the Small Business Relief Fund.
"Small businesses are the heart of Portland and Oregon's economy, and they're experiencing unprecedented disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Cort O'Haver, president and CEO of Umpqua Bank, who joined Wheeler at the press conference. "As Oregon's bank, Umpqua cares deeply about helping small businesses across Portland and the state. At a time when so many across our region are experiencing unprecedented financial disruption, it's important that small businesses know Portland's broader business community stands with them, and that we're all in this together."
The online application process for the Small Business Relief Fund opened this morning at 9 am and will close April 1 (it's not first come, first serve, so applicants still have time). Prosper Portland plans to get money by April 10, a very quick turnaround by government standards.
As WW reported on Friday, city officials expect to get about $100 million from the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill President Trump signed into law Friday. But details on exactly how much, when the money will arrive and how it can be used are not yet available.
The city plans to assist residents in a variety of other ways, as well. It has declared a moratorium on residential evictions for tenants impacted by the pandemic (but those people must notify landlords on or before the day their rent is due and be able to document a loss of income). The Portland Housing Bureau has also created a $1 million "household stabilization fund," which the bureau hopes can provide cash payments to up to 2,000 families to help pay for rent, food, medication and other urgent needs.
"I am incredibly proud of how Portlanders are looking out for each other during these unprecedented and challenging times," Mayor Wheeler said. "The actions, generosity and willingness of our private partners to join the city in our effort to generate emergency funding is helping bring immediate relief to those in our community who are struggling during this pandemic."