Oregon resumes paying grants to Black Oregonians after settling Cares Fund lawsuit
Oregon once again began distributing grants last week through its unique $62 million coronavirus relief fund for Black Oregonians.
Organizers of the fund distributed $49.5 million to Black Oregonians, Black-owned businesses and Black-led nonprofits across 31 Oregon counties last fall, but they agreed to hand over their remaining funds to a federal court and stop allocating grant money in December after a John Day logging company and Portland coffee shop challenged the constitutionality of the state fund.
The state and organizers of the fund reached a settlement with John Day logging company Great Northern Resources in March, allowing them to recoup $5.3 million from the court to distribute to Black Oregonians.
Fund organizers began distributing that money last week. They are using the funds to provide grants to people and organizations that applied for support late last year but never received funding due to the legal case. The fund is not accepting new grant applications.
“We are working as fast as possible to notify applicants and distribute awards, while ensuring security and compliance,” said Anthony Jordan, president of The Contingent, the nonprofit administering the grants.
As part of the settlement, Oregon is also using its own risk fund to pay grants to up to 1,252 non-Black applicants that sought funding through the program before Dec. 8. The court is continuing to hold an additional $3.5 million deposited by fund organizers until the state pays out those grants.
While the state and fund organizers reached a settlement with Great Northern Resources, the constitutionality of the fund may still be litigated through a separate ongoing lawsuit brought against the fund by Maria Garcia, the Mexican American owner of a downtown Portland coffee shop.
Approximately $42,000, the maximum grant that Garcia would have qualified for if she were eligible for a grant through the fund, is still being held by the court while that case continues.
Oregon lawmakers voted last July to set aside 4.5% of the federal pandemic relief money received by the state to seed the fund. Oregon appears to have been the only state that allocated federal coronavirus relief dollars to individuals and business owners of a specific race.