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COVID relief of $2,500 goes to 421 small operations, part of federal CARES Act funds

PMG FILE PHOTO - The $2,500 grants are designed to throw a lifeline to small businesses in East County devastated by the pandemic and related restrictions.

More than $1 million in grants is being distributed to 421 small businesses in East Multnomah County, from $7.6 million in federal CARES Act funds the county received.

"These focused investments to assist East Multnomah County businesses, especially for women-owned and BIPOC business owners, sends a strong signal that East County matters," said Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who represents the area.

The $2,500 grants are designed to help small businesses devastated by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed to tamp down the spread of the virus.

Of the 421 businesses receiving grants, 324 are in Gresham, 53 in Troutdale, 27 in Fairview, 12 in Wood Village and 5 are in unincorporated East Multnomah County.

In total, $1,052,500 in grants will be disbursed to qualifying small businesses over the next few weeks, according to an announcement from the Portland Business Alliance. All funds are expected to be delivered by March 31.

The hardest hit businesses were prioritized for the money.

Multnomah County tapped the Portland Business Alliance Charitable Institute to do the grant making. That committee received 1,158 applications and 890 were deemed eligible. Half of the 421 businesses getting the grants are minority owned, the announcement said.

"When we learned that the CARES Act funds had to be used by Dec. 31, 2020, we committed to making sure that every last dollar made its way quickly to the small businesses that needed it the most," Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said in a statement.

"This partnership with the Portland Business Alliance was instrumental in getting relief into the hands of East County business owners who have had fewer opportunities to access federal aid, and will hopefully help them to survive long enough to thrive again," Kafoury added.

The East Multnomah County Small Business Relief fund is part of the $7.6 million allocation Multnomah County received from the State of Oregon in November.

As an additional perk, the grantees will also get a free small business membership for one year to the Portland Business Alliance, Greater Portland's Chamber of Commerce.

The county also is cutting $5.3 million in checks to restaurants and food carts in the county that have seen their businesses crater as a result of pandemic restrictions. East County restaurants could apply for both grant programs, but a county spokesman could not immediately say if any restaurants received money from both programs.

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