Black COVID-19 fund sparks outrage in Oregon

Oregon allocated $62 million of federal COVID-19 relief money for Black individuals and business owners

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Created in July, the Oregon Cares Fund that was meant to help Black people hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, is now facing legal troubles.

Oregon earmarked $62 million of its $1.4 billion of federal COVID-19 relief money to explicitly benefit Black individuals and business owners with grants that would get them through the difficult times they were experiencing as the virus swept through the country.

Read More: Petition asks Congress to protect Black-owned businesses during COVID-19

But now those millions of desperately needed dollars are in limbo after one Mexican-American and two white business owners sued the state, arguing that the fund discriminated against them, The New York Times reported.

When the Oregon Cares Fund was created, lawmakers took the rare step of specifically naming African Americans in the state as the beneficiaries, arguing that Black residents have been subjected to unique discrimination that made them particularly vulnerable during the pandemic.

Joy Mack, the owner of a Jayah Rose Salon & Spa in Portland heaped on $30,000 worth of debt during the three-month COVID lockdown in Oregon. For her, the Oregon Cares Fund grant was a lifeline, per Fox News.

“When you go for other types of loans, there’s a little more scrutiny,” Mack said. I’ve experienced it more than once myself. We (Black business owners) have a little more difficult time accessing resources.”

Read More: Black businesses get fewer loan opportunities, study shows

This battle in Oregon has unfolded against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and exposes the need for drastic steps to be taken to undo racial inequalities and repair the harm caused by racial injustice.

To date, the Oregon Cares Fund has disbursed about half of the $62 million. Most of the remaining money already has been approved for grants, so it is likely all the COVID relief cash will be depleted by the time the court makes its decision.

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