New Relief Measures Coming For Portland Small Businesses, Low-Income Households

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
March 25, 2020 11:35 p.m.

UPDATED (11:50 a.m): On Monday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler held a press conference formally announcing the relief measures. 

Applications opened Monday morning for the city’s Small Business Relief Fund. They will close on Wednesday and grant recipients will be selected by next Tuesday.


Seven banks have also come on board, pledging upwards of $1 million to help the city’s small businesses with grants and loans, according to the mayor’s office. Umpqua Bank’s president and CEO Cort O’Haver announced Monday the bank will be contributing $750,000.

The Portland Housing Bureau’s Director, Shannon Callahan, also formally announced the creation of the bureau’s Emergency Household Stabilization Fund, which she estimates could provide for between 1,800 and 2,000 families. Callahan said there will be future announcements on how households could access the funds.

Some relief is in the pipeline for Portland’s small businesses and low-income households.

Portland’s City Council voted Wednesday to transfer $3 million in general fund money to a fund that will help the city respond to COVID-19. A million of that is poised to be pushed out to small businesses in the form of emergency relief grants, administered through Prosper Portland, the city’s economic development agency.

The agency will vote Thursday morning to create a “small business relief fund” to support businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund, if approved, will start with $2 million in it: $1 million provided by the city's general fund and another $1 million provided by Prosper Portland.


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The general fund money will be used for grants to small businesses reeling from the pandemic’s economic fallout. Prosper Portland’s Executive Director Kimberly Branam estimated the funds will be enough to support about 150 local businesses. Between $5,000 and $10,000 would be available for each business.

The agency will prioritize businesses that are "public facing," have experienced at least a 25% decrease in revenue, who continue to pay employees or provide health care and are owned by people of color and women.

“Some examples of kinds of business who might benefit from this fund include a black-owned food cart in North Portland, a neighborhood coffee shop in Rosewood, a Native American-owned catering company with 25 employees or a neighborhood serving restaurant with only 16 days of operating services in the bank,” Branam told the City Council.

Applications are expected to be made available March 30. Branam said she hoped to get  resources “into the hands of recipients within 10 days.”

The $1 million coming from Prosper Portland could be used for grants and loans, according to agency spokesman Shawn Uhlman. Businesses would have five years to repay the loans at zero percent interest, according to a memo sent to the agency's board.

Small businesses aren’t the only Portlanders poised to get some relief. The City Council also voted Wednesday to allow Portland’s Housing Bureau to reallocate $1 million of its budget for “emergency household support.”

The Bureau’s spokeswoman, Martha Calhoon, said details on what the money will be used for are still being finalized. But the current plan is to hand over the money to households  that have been impacted by a substantial loss of income.

Calhoon said the bureau is planning to give “direct cash assistance” to households for any urgent needs – that could be necessities like rent, cleaning supplies or medication. The bureau’s estimating it will be able to give 2,000 families $500 each.

She said the details of how and when this money will be deployed are still being hammered out.