Learn how grants of up to $5,000 are being distributed to the county’s sole proprietors and businesses with five or fewer employees
MARION COUNTY – Success is never guaranteed when starting or running a small business, but the coronavirus pandemic has made the challenges even greater.
In response, federal, state and local officials are gearing up government efforts such as rescue loans, grants, and other stopgap assistance to help businesses stay afloat, especially small businesses.
To help small businesses statewide, Governor Kate Brown has announced the launch of a new Small Business Resource Navigator that includes a hotline and website with links to federal, state, and local programs.
“My goal is to connect thousands of Oregon’s small businesses with the federal, state, and local financial support available to small businesses dealing with the impacts of COVID-19,” the Governor said.
In Oregon’s Marion County, leaders are stepping in with a local lifeline of their own: redeploying part of the county’s share of Oregon Lottery proceeds to help some local small businesses.
The Lottery allocates 25.5% of profits to help finance economic development efforts statewide.
Marion County commissioners voted on April 1 to make grants of up to $5,000 available to county-based sole proprietors and businesses with five or fewer employees, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Applications will be available starting on Tuesday, April 7 at noon, and then will be accepted on April 9 and 10 through a partnership with the nonprofit Willamette Workforce Partnership (WWP).
The grants will be paid with $200,000 from the Marion County Economic Stimulus Funding Program.
“Every penny matters,” said Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron, a former state legislator and a member of the Governor’s new Mid-Valley Economic Recovery Team. The governor mobilized 11 regional teams statewide to help coordinate – and communicate about – joint state and local COVID-related response and recovery efforts.
Cameron said the local Lottery funds are typically used to improve infrastructure to facilitate development, such as industrial parks. But the crisis facing local Main Street businesses caused the Commission to reprioritize – much like a leaky roof will cause you to deplete a vacation fund, he said.
“Keeping our businesses alive is, right now, an emergency situation,” he said. “This is a small amount compared to the economic damages that people are facing, but if there are 40 people this helps and it gives them hope and allows them to continue on, then it is a good investment.”
To help complete the grants quickly, the county turned to its local workforce development nonprofit, which is in a unique position to be nimble, effective and speedy in its response to businesses, said Kim Parker-Llerenas, Executive Director of Willamette Workforce Partnership.
“We are poised and ready to quickly get funding support into the hands of businesses that need it most, that perhaps don’t have other options during these unprecedented times,” Parker-Llerenas said.
Jason Schneider, director of the Marion County Economic Development Department, said the rescue grants help to illustrate how the Oregon Lottery can benefit communities.
“Marion County is incredibly fortunate to have the economic lottery funds that we have, to be able to support small businesses in this way,” he said. “We are wishing our businesses were not having to face this situation, and we are glad that we are able to help where we can.”