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Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund announces capacity-building grants for 40 local organizations and nonprofits.

FILE - Activists rallied during rush hour Tuesday afternoon in front of the 82nd Avenue Walmart, in support of the Portland Clean Energy Initiative in 2018.The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund is turning on the tap for its first-ever round of grant funding.

The city program — approved by 65% of the voters in 2018 and powered by a retail sales surcharge on large corporations — announced $200,000 in funding divided among 42 community organizations on Wednesday, Aug. 26.

"The key of the program is getting resources to communities that previously haven't been able to engage in climate and energy work," said Jaimes Valdez, a member of the leadership team for the fund known as PCEF. "This is really starting at the grass roots of community-based organizing."

Valdez said the Application Support Grant funding can be used for tech and computer upgrades, for conducting community outreach and for training and seminars, as well as for hiring grant writers and building capacity for the next round of PCEF funding.

Applications will open for a much larger pool of money — around $8 million or $9 million — from Sept. 14 to Nov. 13, with grants to be announced in February. Those grants are intended to begin accomplishing the goals of the Clean Energy Fund, such as creating green jobs, providing workforce training and funding energy-efficiency investments.

"Five thousand dollars is not enough to really address those systemic problems, but we're hoping that these funds do help these smaller organizations get ready," said Valdez.

More than 120 organizations applied for the grants of up to $5,000, and those who didn't make the cut are encouraged to continue refining their proposals, he added. City employees used a framework created by the fund's nine-member oversight committee in order to prioritize the allocation of money to smaller organizations, including all-volunteer groups that serve historically marginalized people and especially Black or Indigenous Portlanders.

All projects must be based in Portland. The approved applicants are required to track and report their expenditures back to PCEF every six months.

Bureau of Planning & Sustainability spokeswoman Eden Dabbs said most organizations requested $5,000 and a few requested smaller amounts but declined to specify who got what because "no payments have been distributed, just award notices."

PCEF expects to eventually raise some $40 million to $60 million a year, with no expiration date. The surcharge applies to businesses with $1 billion in national and at least $500,000 in local sales, with exceptions for food, health care and utility providers.

Those awarded grant funds include: African American Alliance for Home Ownership; African Family Holistic Health Organization; African Youth and Community Organization; Albina Vision Trust; Beyond Black; Black American Chamber of Commerce; Black Community of Portland; Black Futures Farm, in partnership with Know Agenda Foundation; Black Men & Women In Training; Black Mental Health Oregon; Brown Hope; Council on American-Islamic Relations Oregon; De Rose Community Bridge and Holistic Wellness, in partnership with Togo Community Organization of Oregon; Friends of Zenger Farm; HAKI Community Organization, in partnership with Tryon Creek Watershed Council; Indigenous Food Sovereignty Project, in partnership with Native Wellness Institute; June Key Delta Community Center, in partnership with Know Agenda Foundation; Lao Buddhist Center of Northwest; Leaders Become Legends, in partnership with Rosewood Initiative; McKenzie River Gathering Foundation; Mudbone Grown, in partnership with Oregon Food Bank; NAACP Portland Chapter 1120B; Northwest Alliance for Alternative Media and Education; Nutrition Garden Rx, in partnership with East Portland Neighbors; Oregon Native American Chamber; PDX Alliance for Self-Care, in partnership with Know Agenda Foundation; Play Grow Learn, in partnership with Coalition of Black Men; Portland All Nations Canoe Family; Roots and Beats Project, in partnership with Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods; Sabin CDC; Somali American Maay Community of Oregon; Taking Ownership PDX, in partnership with All Ages Music PDX; The Black United Fund of Oregon; The Blueprint Foundation; The Ebony Collective Community Development Corporation; Togo Community Organization of Oregon; Tributaries Network; Twende Solar; Vibrant Portland, in partnership with SE Uplift; Visible Alliance; Wisdom of the Elders; and Women First Transition Referral Center.

Zane Sparling
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