The state's legislative emergency board took a step today to lessen the financial woes of Oregonians, by approving more than $200 million in funds that will go to those who have been suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic's effects across the state.
"This funding will bring much-needed help to those who are facing the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis," House Speaker Tina Kotek said in a press release, "including Black Oregonians, frontline workers, struggling small businesses, and laid off workers who’ve been waiting months for unemployment to come through."
While acknowledging the funds are a drop in the bucket compared to the ongoing needs of those in the state, Kotek said she hopes that this money, in addition to much-needed action and financial help from Congress and the federal government, will help Oregonians who are looking at yet another possible lockdown due to the surge in coronavirus cases.
According to the legislature's press release, here's where that $200-plus million will go:
• $25.6 million in emergency assistance for small businesses facing financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This supports businesses with no more than 25 employees that have not received support under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or other provisions of the federal CARES Act.
• $50 million to support music, culture, and community venues and organizations that have been closed, cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.
• $62 million to the Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency to provide economic relief to Black individuals and businesses. National and state data show that the Black community is one of the communities experiencing a disproportionate share of negative economic and health effects due to COVID-19.
• $30 million to the COVID-19 Leave Fund for workers who contract or have been exposed to the virus but do not qualify for traditional sick leave.
• $35 million to fund $500 Emergency Relief Checks to Oregonians who are still waiting for unemployment benefits.
Additionally, the Emergency Board also allocated $3.58 million in general funds for emergency water infrastructure to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs as the tribe faces an ongoing water crisis.
This is certainly good news for the music venues and arts organizations who will most likely be the last of businesses to reopen due to the current ban on indoor gatherings, and those Oregonians who have been waiting months for their unemployment checks to arrive. However, it will be especially welcome news for people of color whose communities have been much harder hit than others, and have seen their businesses and safety nets evaporate during the crisis.
The Oregon Cares Fund (OCF)—a program created "by Black people, for Black people" to provide "relief and resiliency"—said in a press release that the legislature's approval of their funding request will "provide much needed resources to Black people and families, Black-owned small businesses, and Black-led community based organizations."
"This is just a start," the OCF wrote, adding that "we are committed to continuing to call for equitable reinvestments in the Black community to mitigate the widening wealth, health, and opportunity gaps in our state."