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Businesses overwhelm state aid program

Less than half an hour after an application period opened for business aid, struggling Oregon companies had submitted at least $25 million in requests for help — forcing the quick closure of the application period.

The Emergency Small Business Assistance Fund application period opened at 3 p.m. Thursday but closed before 3:30 p.m.

“We have already hit the initial limit for funding requests. We will post updates here if after initial review of applications received we have room for more applicants,” the state posted on the oregon4biz.com application page.

State officials had said they would accept applications until requests hit $25 million, or until 5 p.m. Friday, whichever came first.

All applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Oregon businesses with up to 100 employees were able to apply for aid that ranged from $2,000 to $200,000 — if they moved quickly enough.

The Oregon Legislature, in partnership with Gov. Kate Brown, allocated millions of dollars from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding for the new business aid program.

Congress approved the CARES act in March in response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but hasn’t acted this fall to approve another relief bill to address ongoing impacts.

With COVID-19 cases and deaths rising, the state of Oregon placed new restrictions on social gatherings and many businesses at least through Dec. 2.

Thursday’s business aid program was the fifth round of financial help offered through the state. The latest round opened the program up to larger businesses, plus companies that had received other forms of aid, such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Many businesses have now exhausted the money they got through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Workers who get laid off are facing the state’s slow-moving unemployment claim processing system. A federal unemployment bonus that added $600 per week to state unemployment benefits during the pandemic expired over the summer.

“There’s going to be a lot of people who are going to be laid off,” said Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer.

Although the state has worked to reform its outdated unemployment claim system, county commissioners expressed skepticism about how quickly laid off workers will get unemployment benefits.

In a separate program, the governor has allocated $55 million in coronavirus relief funds for business aid. Each county will receive a base figure of $500,000 plus additional money based on population.

Counties will be responsible for deciding how businesses apply to receive funds. The funds will be distributed to counties within the next several weeks, state officials said on Tuesday.

Jackson County officials said this week they don’t know yet what distribution rules will be attached to the aid.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Struggling Oregon business submitted at least $25 million in aid requests, forcing the closure of an application period after less than half an hour. File photo{ }