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Oregon program allocates millions in federal coronavirus funds exclusively to black residents

Program "will provide economic relief for [black] individuals, businesses, and nonprofits."

Updated: August 29, 2020 - 6:38pm

A relief program in the state of Oregon is directing tens of millions of dollars in federal coronavirus stimulus funds exclusively to black residents of the state in an effort to redress "demonstrated health and economic disparities experienced by the Black community" there. 

The Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief & Resiliency states that it is "a $62 million targeted cash investment from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund" intended to "provide economic relief for the Black community, who are among Oregon's most vulnerable groups due to systemic divestment and disparities widened and exacerbated by COVID-19."

The fund "provides cash grants to Black individuals and families, Black-owned businesses, and Black-led nonprofit organizations who have experienced financial adversity due to COVID-19," the website states. 

The fund's council, which is "composed of eleven Black leaders from across the state of Oregon," is currently reviewing applications for fund distributions. It expects all funds to be distributed no later than Dec. 30 of this year. 

The funds were allocated to the organization in July by the Oregon state legislature. Fund disbursement is administered by two nonprofits, the Contingent and the Black United Fund of Oregon.

The project says that the Oregon state government "is not providing day-to-day oversight" of the fund, though the Contingent in the course of its administrative duties "will provide monthly reports to the state of Oregon."

It is unclear if the avowedly race-specific fund violates federal prohibitions on racial discrimination. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that "any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance" is forbidden from racially discriminating against participants.