Help for Minority Businesses in Crisis

Prosper Portland to manage $1 million relief fund

The first phase of a Small Business Relief Fund to help minority and women-owned firms and other disadvantaged businesses struggling to survive economically because of the coronavirus public health crisis will be launched Monday by Prosper Portland.

The economic development agency announced Thursday that the fund is meant to be a bridge of support to 150 to 200 small businesses in the city before additional state and federal relief fund monies become available in the coming months.

Using $1 million in general fund dollars allocated by Portland City Council on Wednesday, the Small Business Relief Fund will provide small grants of $2,000-$10,000 to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prosper Portland is also working alongside Mayor Wheeler and City Council members to increase resources available for loans and grants, and enlisting other partners in the effort. If you are interested in contributing to the fund, contact Troels Adrian at Prosper Portland at prosperportland.us.

Applications for grants will open on Monday, March 30 at 9 a.m. on the prosperportland.us website. Priority will be given to businesses impacted by COVID-19, particularly people of color and women-owned businesses, businesses that are supporting employees and job retention, and those that will be able to remain in business with these funds.

As a second phase in the coming weeks, an additional $1 million will be made available to launch the Portland Small Business Relief loan program. That program will provide zero interest loans for Portland businesses preserving jobs, particularly those owned by people of color, women, low income individuals and those in east Portland and Neighborhood Prosperity Network-designated service areas; as well as businesses in industrial districts and those paying employees $15/hour or more and using resources to maintain employment levels, officials said.

Prosper Portland has been intentional in using an equity lens and leveraging the expertise and input of its community partners to ensure that the agency creates a program that avoids the first-come-first-served mentality and the exacerbation of existing inequities, according to Executive Director Kimberly Branam.

Branam said Prosper Portland has also allowed time to convene with its philanthropic partners to build a more robust process of relief, saying it had learned from other cities that a first-come, first-served kind of process prioritizes those who best understand the system, have English as their first language and have fewer barriers.

For more details about the Small Business Relief Fund, including eligibility, requirements and frequently asked questions, visit www.prosperportland.us/relief.