The Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief + Resiliency

The Oregon Cares Fund

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Deadline: Rolling

Grant amount: More than US $1,000

Fields of work: African-American Services Racial / Ethnic Justice & Rights

Applicant type: For-Profit Business, Nonprofit, Individuals

Funding uses: Project / Program, General Operating Expense

Location of project: Oregon

Location of residency: Oregon

Exclusive to minorities: Yes

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The Oregon Cares Fund for Black relief and resiliency Overview

The Black community across Oregon is in the midst of two pandemics. First is the 400 years of racial violence and strategic divestment from the Black community in the United States, further entrenched in Oregon through intentional policy and practice. Second is the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic that is widening socio-economic disparities between the average white and Black Oregonian. This gap can begin to be narrowed through targeted economic investments for Black people, Black-owned businesses, and Black community-based organizations.

The Oregon Cares Fund (TOCF) for Black relief and resiliency, a $62 million targeted investment in Oregon’s Black community, derived from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) within the CARES Act, serves as the beginning steps to equitably addressing the systemic disadvantages experienced by the Black community. This funding will provide economic relief for individuals and small businesses to meet their pressing economic needs providing a vital source of support in the ecosystem of the Black community.

Historic Disparities

The myriad of issues requiring remedy prior to and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic are institutional, and cannot be mitigated through one singular effort or fund. Black Oregonians began this pandemic far behind white Oregonians in health, education, and economic prosperity. Due to the Great Recession, Black households across the United States lost 40% of their wealth and have not recovered in a manner commensurate to that of White households. Massive job losses, decreases in homeownership, asset poverty, and a lack of access to capital has made the Black community less resilient to economic shocks. Factors such as these impact the stability and wellbeing of the entire community, and when left unchecked, will lead to more pronounced disparate outcomes for the impending decade. Immediate intervention is necessary in order to enable the Black community to meet its most basic needs and help us begin to chart a course for collective recovery.

COVID-19 is Exacerbating Poverty in the Black Community

Black laborers have been disproportionately classified as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, overexposing them to the coronavirus due to being overrepresented in lowwage jobs and underrepresented in living-wage ones. Since “…groups that have historically been excluded from labor markets tend to be the first people let go—wage and unemployment gaps continue to increase,” and it follows that, as of June 1, there is a national unemployment rate of 16.7% for Black workers.

The 25.5% of those living below poverty level experience unemployment at nearly 7 times the rate of people at or above the poverty level of 3.9%. From 2006-2010, 29% of Black families in Oregon lived in poverty as opposed to 12% of white families, and according to a 2019 report, 52% of Black households experience asset poverty compared to 24% of white households in Multnomah County. This is further evidenced by the fact that white households make on average $67,715 per annum, more than twice that of Black households with an average of $29,825 per annum.

High rates of poverty and the prevalence of low income jobs create a disparate financial burden on Black Oregonians. A 2015 Portland Housing Bureau report revealed approximately 68.8% of Black renters and 42.9% of Black homeowners are cost burdened, spending 30% or more of their income on housing costs. With unemployment rates rising in industries where Black people are overrepresented, and the $600 Unemployment benefit that many Black Oregonians were relying on in order to meet their basic needs has now expired, there will not only be a spike in cost burdened renters and homeowners, but in homelessness as well. Homelessness has already been declared a statewide emergency, and although they comprise a mere 7.2% of the general population, Black people constitute no less than 16.1% of the homeless population in Multnomah County.

In order to begin to eradicate the health inequities that are worsening public health outcomes for the Black community, economic inequities must addressed due to the toxic stress that results from poverty and racism.

COVID-19 is Decimating Gains Made by Black-owned Businesses since the Great Recession

The programs established to support small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic were not designed with Black-owned businesses in mind. This is evident through the mechanisms and outcomes of the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Nationally 51% of Black small businesses applied for less than $20,000 in temporary funding from the federal government and only 1 in 10, or 12%, received the assistance they requested. Additionally, 66% of minority-owned businesses reported they either received no funds, or were waiting on a decision if they were to receive the funds they requested.

In Oregon, the number of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to African American owned businesses is down 94% since 2007, and last year the SBA backed just loans to black-owned businesses in our state. Furthermore, “local governments have also created small business relief programs, but the need has far outstripped the available funds,” and without direct debt-free cash investments in Black-owned businesses the inequities the state and federal government have allowed to flourish will deepen further.

A Lack of Funding is Impairing the Ability of Black Community-based Organizations to Financially Mediate

Black-led organizations are not given the same funding and resources as their nonblack counterparts. This lack of consistent funding in the Black community has devastating impacts as it depends on trusted community-based organizations for the dissemination of resources and information. Concerns in regard to organizational capacity and budget provide thinly veiled ways for systematic disinvestment to perpetuate in the not-for-profit realm. For instance, among organizations focused on improving the outcomes of Black boys, groups with Black leaders had 45% less revenue and unrestricted assets that were 91% lower, than that of their counterparts with white leaders. Economic investments are needed in Black-led organizations as they are the foundation in which the Black community depends upon. 

The Oregon Cares Fund for Black relief and resiliency

The Oregon Cares Fund for Black relief and resiliency should be seeded with a baseline of $62 million, allocated from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). The State of Oregon received $1,388,506,837 from the CRF, and the distribution of funds should not, and must not, flow based solely on per capita population figures. Distribution should reflect an investment in those disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic due to pre-existing biases in our socio-economic systems.  

The US Federal Poverty Level is the most basic metric our country uses to measure such disproportionalities, and though it can be problematic, we have utilized it to determine our funding estimates. While Black people make up 2% of Oregon’s population, they represent at least 4% of Oregonians living in poverty. Census data has a documented history of undercounting the Black community, and it categorically excludes Black people claiming more than one race. The actual number of Black people in Oregon, and consequently Black Oregonians living in poverty, is likely much higher. To account for this discrepancy in data as well as the disproportionate percentage of Black Oregonians impacted by poverty, we modestly request that 4.5% of CRF funding, $62 million, be allocated for The Oregon Cares Fund (TOCF). 

It should be noted that this baseline request of $62 million is being solicited without adjustments for the aforementioned Black Oregonians that might have received interim rental assistance, the federally supported $600 for unemployment aid, or any other relief associated with the ravages of COVID-19, such as various municipalities small business emergency funds, and other vehicles. Those essential benefits do not address the baseline economic needs of the Black community in order to navigate the next six months, and should not be used as a marker in some zero-sum analysis in how best to distribute these funds. It is also unclear thus far how Oregon can meaningfully report whether any of these programs were provided equitably.

The Oregon Cares Fund will be managed and distributed to community-based organizations by the Black United Fund and The Contingent, our respected community-based partners. The Contingent serves all 36 counties in Oregon and currently has a five-year, multi-million dollar grant partnership with The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) for the Every Child foster family recruitment program. Additionally, The Contingent partners with the Department of Corrections to facilitate the Know Me Know program. Community-based organizations are best positioned to advertise and manage the intake of recipients for funding in local communities across Oregon. The Black United Fund (BUF) has been suitably disseminating philanthropic dollars to low income communities and communities of color in Oregon since 1983.

The extrapolation of national, historic and current local data presents the evidence that Black Oregonians are faring much worse in this pandemic than white Oregonians. More granular data is needed to know the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately effected Black Oregonians. To put it simply, the State has never prioritized the policies, practices, or systems required to hold itself accountable to providing equitable services and resources. While the Decolonizing Data group, comprised of a multitude of researchers of color based in Oregon has done extensive work related to the disaggregation and reporting of data, there remains much work to do. However, the estimate of 4.5% of the CRF was deemed an accurate-enough assessment to address the economic needs of Oregon’s Black population. 

At this critical juncture, by targeting investments in the Black community, the State of Oregon has an opportunity to protect the health and wellbeing of all Oregonians. If decisive action is not taken and these investments are not made, Black Oregonians will experience even greater gaps in socio-economic inequity, requiring more costly remedies for years to come.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The Oregon Cares Fund is for Black people, Black-owned businesses, and Black community based organizations.

This page was last reviewed August 27, 2020 and last updated August 26, 2020