Prosper Portland is, according to the organization’s website, the economic and urban development agency for Portland, Oregon. It is overseen by a board of volunteer citizens appointed by the city’s mayor, and by the City Council. It gives the agency flexibility, operating for the city and with accountability, but not necessarily governed by elected officials.

“We focus on building an equitable economy by carrying out a comprehensive range of economic development programs that support small business, improve access to workforce training, and create jobs for Portland residents,” says the website.

In mid-September, Prosper Portland opened a grant program for local small businesses. The city allocated $15 million from its general fund for the Small Business Relief Fund.

Eligible businesses have fewer than 50 employees and are primarily based within the City of Portland, make less than $5 million annually, and are the primary source of income for their owners. They also must have seen and documented a decline in revenue since February of this year, aligning with the pandemic.

There are more than 150,000 small businesses registered in the City of Portland. Prosper Portland hopes to spread the grant money as far as possible, of course, but will openly prioritize businesses which have been hardest hit: those that have not received any federal aid; childcare-focused businesses; and those owned by black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), or women.

Additional priority will be given to businesses making major pivots to their operating model in the wake of COVID-19. The selection process will include a vetted list of criteria and be administered by a diverse committee selected from the business, activist, and political communities of Portland.

Applications for this round of grant funding (there will be more in the future) are due by September 25. Decisions will be made by October 14, and the agency will begin dispersing the funds immediately.

Photo: An alley in Portland, Oregon. Credit: Shutterstock