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Business Oregon, the state agency administering the fund, says 2,600 applicants were accepted during first round of grant funding.

PMG FILE PHOTO: GABBY URENDA - People walk and sit on East Main Street in downtown Hillsboro in 2019.Hundreds of commercial landlords and tenants who applied for state funding to cover unpaid rent went away empty handed last month — a disappointment worth approximately $15.5 million.

Oregon's Commercial Rent Relief program is set to hand out $49.9 million to property owners after the first round of grant funding closed on March 22.

Applications outpaced cash, with the requests totaling $65.4 million.

The results aren't unexpected: Oregon hasn't had a commercial eviction moratorium in place since the end of December, and business owners in arrears had until March 31 to make up the back rent.

But state data released to Pamplin Media Group shows those applicants with empty pockets — more than 350 business owners in total — are all located in the Portland metro area.

"There was simply more demand than supply in the metro region," said Nathan Buehler, a spokesman for Business Oregon. "Only some businesses in the Portland metro area weren't able to get funded, but they will automatically be considered in round two of funding we'll roll out mid-April."

The state's agency funding formula allocates 20% of the fund each to Portland metro and Willamette Valley businesses, as well as a 15% slice each to the eastern, southern, central and coastal regions of the state. But rural applications came in well below their cap, so the money rolled over and Portland area businesses ended up with 63.7% of the allocation.

"The lottery process took out 356 applications," said Buehler, "resulting in 2,609 applications that will move forward for funding."

Unlike Oregon's residential rent relief program, the commercial program doesn't favor smaller landlords. But the commercial tenants seeking state money to pay their lease must be for-profit businesses, based in Oregon, with fewer than 100 employees per storefront.

An FAQ prepared by the state says marijuana dispensaries are ineligible for the program, because "business must be compliant with all local, state and federal laws." Nonprofit tenants are also barred from the program, as the "scope of the nonprofits' activities vary tremendously from one to another and are not all commercial enterprises," according to the FAQ.

Grants are limited to $100,000 per business and $3 million per landlord. Applications will open again later this month.

By the numbers:

State lawmakers in January allocated $100 million in cash for a Commercial Rent Relief program. Here's where the funding from the first of two rounds flowed:

Central Oregon:

Amount requested: $4.09 million from 198 applicants

Applications funded: All

Coastal Oregon:

Amount requested: $1.1 million from 95 applicants

Applications funded: All

Eastern Oregon:

Amount requested: $634,000 from 52 applicants

Applications funded: All

Portland Metro:

Amount requested: $31.8 million from 1,834 applicants

Applications funded: 1,478

Willamette Valley:

Amount requested: $10.7 million from 603 applicants

Applications funded: All

Southern Oregon:

Amount requested: $1.47 million from 183 applicants

Applications funded: All


Zane Sparling
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