Almost two weeks after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shut down all indoor and outdoor restaurant dining, Multnomah County announced it is offering grants to licensed restaurants and food carts in the county to offset the cost of COVID-19 restrictions.
Applications for the funds will be accepted starting on Monday, Nov. 30, two days before Brown will allow limited outdoor restaurant dining. Her new order still prohibits indoor dining in the county.
"Restaurants have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic and suffered major losses," said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. "Many restaurants are struggling to hang on, we are hoping that these small grants help more businesses make it through this difficult period."
The grants are part of more than $7.6 million in federal CARES funds the county has received from the state to distribute to small businesses. The county estimates restaurant and food cart owners will qualify for approximately $5.3 million of the funds.
"We're focused on getting these funds out the door as quickly as possible," Kafoury said. "These small businesses are the backbone of our community and we will keep fighting at the state and federal level for more help for their survival."
Brown announced a two-week statewide "freeze" on business and social activities to slow the spread of COVID-19, effective Nov. 23, with the restrictions last four weeks in the Portland area. She revised the restrictions last week to create a series of tiers that would be applied to each Oregon county, starting on Thursday, Dec. 3. Multnomah County is in the highest risk category — called "extreme risk" — which nevertheless will allow limited outdoor dining to resume.
All restaurants and food carts can still offer takeout food.
The risk categories will be reevaluated and reapplied to each county every two weeks after Dec. 3. Limited indoor dining can resume in counties classified as "high risk," which is one category below "extreme risk."
The county is making grants available to owners of restaurants, food carts and bed-and-breakfasts with five or fewer operator licenses. Anyone who has held a valid, Multnomah County-issued food service license between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2020, is eligible to receive assistance.
The grant amounts are $1,500 per license for restaurants and other food service licenses ($7,500 maximum) and $500 per license for food carts ($2,500 maximum).
The funds can be used for any operational expenses, but cannot be applied to license fees. Businesses who owners can apply include restaurants, food carts (mobile units, caterers, limited service, prepackaged only), bed-and-breakfasts, and benevolent organizations.
"Our operators have lost so much this year, and this won't relieve the hardship. And at the same time, after a year of being the bearer of bad news, it's a relief for me to offer some small support," said Multnomah County Environmental Health Supervisor Jeff Martin. "We have a small window to deliver these grants, so please don't wait. Get your grant application in by Dec. 15."
Prioritizing businesses impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions, small businesses, and women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Tribal-owned businesses is a priority. The county currently is finalizing plans with partner organizations, including culturally specific organizations and organizations that can focus on East County cities, to distribute the balance of the funding.
An online application and more information are available online.
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