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Businesses can get money to improve COVID-19 safety

A new $10 million pool of money is available to help Oregon businesses keep their workplaces and employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic — but apply soon before the funds run out.

Established by SAIF, the state’s nonprofit workers’ compensation insurance company, the coronavirus worker safety fund is designed to support employee safety, reduce injuries and decrease exposures by helping businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, SAIF officials said.

More than 53,000 SAIF policyholders across the state are eligible for funds.

“Our goal is to respond quickly to help businesses in this time of greatest need, and we will continue to look at the need for this type of assistance and how we can best support Oregon’s businesses and workers,” said Kerry Barnett, president and CEO of SAIF.

SAIF will accept submissions until all funds have been expended or until the fund is no longer needed.

The fund will help businesses pay for expenses tied to making workplaces safer against the virus and dealing with the impact of the pandemic on workers.

Eligible expenses could include safety equipment and personal protective equipment like masks and gloves to reduce exposure and transmission; work site cleaning and disinfection supplies; resources to reopen businesses safely after a coronavirus-related closure; resources to redesign or modify workspaces to encourage social distancing; and mental health and wellness initiatives.

Businesses must have incurred the expenses after March 1. Expenditures must be clearly related to the COVID-19 crisis, and be directly associated with worker safety, SAIF officials said.

Ineligible expenses include home work station equipment and regular staffing expenses.

The application and additional details about the fund are available at saif.com/safetyfund.

SAIF’s coronavirus worker safety fund is separate from other sources of help for businesses.

The recently passed federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, for example, allocates $350 million to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn.

The act provides federally guaranteed loans. Businesses may qualify for loan forgiveness by maintaining their payrolls during the crisis or restoring their payrolls afterward.

The Chamber of Medford and Jackson County is spreading the word locally about the CARES Act provisions. A complete guide is available at medfordchamber.com/southernoregonstrong.

The Chamber website also contains a wealth of other information and resources for local businesses.

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce is also providing information about city, state and federal help for businesses on its website at ashlandchamber.com.

The public can also visit the website for updates on closures as well as information on local businesses that remain open, including restaurants with take-out and delivery options, lodging businesses and stores.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

A new $10 million fund will help businesses cover COVID-19 safety expenses. File photo.