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After getting only one application, commissioners decide to give away most of the money through debt relief

After getting only one application for a business-loan program, Oregon City commissioners decided to let the city give away most of the money through debt relief and reserve a portion to keep the loan program viable.

Commissioners on Nov. 4 agreed to reserve $100,000 of the $275,000 program for loans and allow the rest of the funds (up to $175,000) to pay off the debts of businesses in the city.

Forgivable loans of up to $60,000 are now available for Oregon City businesses and nonprofit organizations to implement processes or purchase technologies to sustain their operations in the face of multiple challenges like COVID-19 or wildfires.

City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell was an outspoken advocate for keeping some funding reserved for the business-loan program.

James Graham"It's a policy matter to incentivize people and to give them breathing room to maybe take a moment to maybe earn more money per hour than they could possibly earn in their business operations," O'Donnell said.

On Sept. 16, city commissioners unanimously approved the business-loan program in which the federal government will reimburse the city for eligible business loans through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Oregon City's Re-Imagine Opportunity Fund will be targeted to tourism attractions most affected by 2020 economic disruptions, such as guides, outfitters, restaurants and hospitality providers. Oregon City Economic Development Manager James Graham said COVID-19 has provided some unprecedented challenges for businesses.

"Regrettably, this program cannot support every eligible applicant in Oregon City due to limited available funds," Graham said. "Further, it is recognized that the program will not make up for all the financial loss experienced by the grantee during these unprecedented times."

Graham said the proposed projects should ideally be between $15,000 and $25,000 and would be reviewed by a committee of city/county officials in consultation with an accountant and an attorney.

Businesses are still eligible for both programs even if they received CARES Act funding or grant funding previously from Oregon City's previous debt-relief initiative in May. Applications submitted through orcity.org will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Awardees will be announced Dec. 28 after applications are accepted through Nov. 30. City commissioners plan to meet again in December to allocate additional funding for debt relief if the business-loan program continues not to generate interest.


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