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Medford eyes million-dollar relief plan

More than $700,000 from cannabis taxes and federal grants are being eyed by Medford City Council to help businesses and residents weather the economic downturn.

The city will receive $432,691 in federal funds meant to help communities regain their economic footing, and the council is considering using the money for rental assistance to prevent evictions.

Some of the money could go directly to the Center for Nonprofit Legal Services.

On Thursday night, the council looked at a number of options to spend much of the remaining $326,758 in cannabis taxes to help residents, nonprofits and small businesses.

“We’re shaking every last branch to assist the community during these trying times,” said Kevin Stine, Medford council president.

He said the rental assistance is of particular importance because up to 14% of renters are estimated to be past due.

“If we had 5% of people lose their place to live, that’s a crisis,” Stine said.

All the proposals on the table, as well as all of the money already spent by the city on economic relief, add up to more than $1 million.

Cannabis taxes had previously provided $300,000 for the police livability team, which patrols the downtown and Bear Creek Greenway. Another $100,000 was given to social service organizations, and this week $125,000 was given to local businesses during an initial wave of economic relief from the city.

When the city opened the online grant application process Monday, 55 businesses snapped up all the money within 10 minutes. By the end of the day, 126 applications came in, with the requests adding up to $288,000. A business could get a minimum $1,500 grant, and $500 for each employee up to $5,000.

With the remaining cannabis taxes, the council is considering giving businesses another $125,000, with the merchants who have already applied getting priority.

The council discussed a $100,000 preschool scholarship fund, which could help families struggling with a lack of day care during the pandemic. The money could potentially go to organizations such as Kid Time and the YMCA.

The city is looking at setting aside $44,258 to help clean up private properties next to the greenway, which has seen an increase in homeless camps during the pandemic.

A $50,000 grant to the Downtown Medford Association to help hire an executive director to help stimulate the local economy was looked at as well. The grant request came in before the pandemic.

St. Vincent de Paul, which provides help to the homeless, might receive a $7,500 grant.

The council will likely consider these grants at an upcoming meeting.

Stine said the council will likely debate some of these grants, particularly how to disburse the preschool money and also for the Downtown Medford Association.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.