SALEM, Ore. — A pool of $62 million in funding set aside for Oregon's Black community is now accepting applications. The Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency was established by the state Legislative Emergency Board in July.
The fund was established to make grants available specifically for Black individuals and families, businesses, and community-based organizations around the state that have suffered from the economic impact of coronavirus.
D.L. Richardson works as an equity specialist in the Medford School District and is a member of the Black Southern Oregon Alliance. Now he serves as one of 11 members on the Council of Trust, a group charged with administering grants through the Oregon Cares Fund.
"This gives us an opportunity to say 'look, we realize that there's a disparity between African-American citizens in the state of Oregon, versus our White friends or our Latinx friends or what-have-you,'" Richardson told NewsWatch 12. "There's a point where we have to reach out and say that there's got to be some way to help this community — to make sure that we don't fall farther behind than we already are."
Lawmakers approved more than $200 million in coronavirus relief during the month of July. $62 million went to establish the Oregon Cares Fund, but millions in funding also went toward general emergency assistance for small businesses, music and cultural venues that have been shuttered by virus countermeasures, COVID-19 leave funding for workers exposed to the virus, and an emergency funding program for Oregonians still waiting on unemployment benefits.
Prior to COVID-19, roughly twice as many Black Oregonians lived in poverty than White residents. Studies since the pandemic began indicate that the pandemic has widened existing gaps, causing disparate levels of job and wage loss among Black Americans.
"When we think about systemic racism, when we think about how many people are suffering the COVID virus . . . especially considering that there are four times more African-Americans that suffer from the COVID virus here in Oregon than any other population," Richardson continued. "And those are not national numbers, those are numbers from the Oregon Health Authority. So when we see these things happen . . . when we see the economic need that's there, we were excited that the state agreed with us that we need to do something to help this community — outreach."
Applicants to the Oregon Cares Fund must demonstrate economic harm caused by the pandemic and prove Oregon residency. Applications are available through the Contingent and the Black United Fund here.