Mayor Ted Wheeler and the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette announced a new city program for Portland residents struggling with the health and economic impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic during a press conference on Friday, Oct. 23.
Daily life continues to be affected by the pandemic. But now Portlanders feeling the impacts of COVID-19 will have the chance to apply for $500 in household assistance for costs such as food, care, medicine, rent, utilities and transportation.
"The City of Portland's emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis prioritizes housing stability, food security and support for the most vulnerable in our community," Wheeler said. "This Household Assistance Program will help ease the daily struggle of those who are most deeply impacted by the pandemic's severe economic impact."
As announced Oct. 23, the city of Portland has partnered with United Way of the Columbia-Willamette to distribute 2,800 prepaid debit cards to those struggling due to the virus. The application window for the first 1,400 cards will open on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 9 a.m. The next window for the remaining 1,400 will open on Friday, Oct. 30, beginning at 1 p.m.
Eligible applicants must be over the age of 18, live in Portland and have experienced a "a loss of income or elevated health risk related to COVID-19 and have a household income at or below 80% of Area Median Income," according to the Portland Housing Bureau.
The Portland Housing Bureau says the overwhelming majority of recipients are already connected to social services in the city — which are focused on helping vulnerable families.
"I know that a lot of people are hurting, but it's important to remember we all benefit when programs help those most in need in our community," Wheeler said. "We do have 34 community-based organizations already distributing cards through their networks and communities … we're trying to make sure we're reaching Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color."
The giveaway is part of a $15 million Household Assistance Program that was rolled out by the Portland Housing Bureau earlier this month. To ensure assistance would reach Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC) communities and those facing barriers to accessing a public application, the majority of the funds are being distributed in collaboration with approximately 35 culturally specific community-based organizations — most of which represent new partnerships for the city in an effort to create new opportunities with city resources and better serve BIPOC communities.
"We know that it is Black, Indigenous and other People of Color who are most deeply impacted by economic crises and most often left behind by economic recovery," said Portland Housing Bureau Director Shannon Callahan. "In a time of such great need, having these broad community-based partnerships is critical to getting this assistance to those in need who are too often left out and left behind."
Through a partnership with the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS), prepaid cards will also be provided to families and individuals experiencing homelessness and living in shelters and on the streets. Those cards will be made available through sheltering organizations and outreach teams that contract with the Joint Office.
Overall, the Household Assistance Program is expected to help 27,000 Portland households between now and the end of the year. For more information about the program and details on how to apply, visit pdxassist.com.
This is not the only program recently established in an effort to help those trying to stay afloat due to COVID-19.
The popular Healthy Business Program — which allowed businesses to spread out on the sidewalks in front of their locations — was extended through March 31, 2020, with applications being accepted now for the Winter Healthy Business Program.
Furthermore, Multnomah County extended the county-wide eviction moratorium through the end of 2020.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.
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