The Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board designated $62 million to a fund providing direct assistance to Black businesses, individuals, and families.
According to We Buy Black, the Oregon Cares Fund will give grants of up to $3,000 to families and up to $100,000 to Black-owned businesses. The money was allocated by the Oregon Legislature Emergency Board.
“The Oregon Cares Fund is a targeted investment in the Black community from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund,” the website states. “This fund is meant to provide the Black community with the resources it needs to weather the global health pandemic and consequent recession. The Oregon Cares Fund is for Black people, Black-owned businesses and Black community based organizations.”
The fund’s critics question the constitutionality of earmarking funds for a specific racial group. Oregon Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod cited a July 13 opinion by the Legislative Counsel’s Office, which indicates unless the state specifically cites detailed evidence of past wrongs against Black families and businesses, the fund could violate equal protection laws.
“We think the program may potentially, but would not necessarily, violate the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and the privileges and immunities clause of the Oregon Constitution,” wrote deputy legislative counsel David Fan-Yeng in the opinion.
“We are not aware of any evidentiary findings by the Legislature or the Emergency Board in support of the [Cares Fund],” Fan-Yeng continued. “Without any such findings, the program would almost certainly be unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The Oregon Cares Fund will be managed by the Portland-based nonprofit organization The Contingent. The state of Oregon has more than 13,000 coronavirus cases in the state and more than 250 deaths as a result.
Last week, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Steve Daines (R-MT) created a $50 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief fund proposal for Black businesses.