A typical Saturday or Sunday morning in Southeast Portland’s Jade District would normally bring crowds of hungry diners and community members to gather and eat at some of the city’s best Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.
But since the outbreak of COVID-19 was first announced at the beginning of the year, many diners and people within the community itself have stayed away from the area whether out of internal fears gleaned from news back home, xenophobic associations with the virus, and now, as the virus has become a pandemic, part of a statewide shutdown that’s ended all on-site dining at restaurants and bars, one of the Jade District’s largest economic drivers.
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Prosper Portland, the city’s economic development agency, is making a $150,000 grant available to the Jade District neighborhood to help support one of the hardest financially impacted areas of Portland. Eventually, Mayor Wheeler said at the Tuesday morning press conference, he expects to expand those resources to other areas of Portland.
Details of the grant are still being ironed out, said Duncan Hwang, the associate director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO). At the moment he only has a contract from Prosper Portland, but that evaluation criteria will be put together over the next couple days to firm up a selection committee, what that committee is looking for and the application process.
“We’ve been advocating for specific help for Asian-owned businesses for six to eight weeks now,” Hwang said. “I think we all know that Asian-owned businesses have been suffering for almost two months in Portland, some seeing a 30 to 80 percent reduction in revenue.”
According to the current details in the contract, the grant is specifically slated for Asian American-owned businesses throughout the city, but with a focus on businesses within the Jade District neighborhood proper. Each individual grant available will be up to $10,000, with another $10,000 of the initial grant money set aside for communication and marketing plans for getting the word out about delivery or takeout orders from these businesses. The grant money itself can be used for working capital, payroll, making debt payments, rent/leases, e-commerce, marketing, and more.
The application process will be simple, Hwang said, and grants would be made to business owners who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander on a first-come, first-served basis.
An additional fundraising page has also been made available on APANO’s website to bring financial relief to the workers of many of these businesses, who were already reducing hours or laying employees off.
Hwang hopes to get funding out by the end of this week or sometime early next week, though he fears for the longevity of some of the restaurants in the area.
“A lot of folks have been doing delivery or takeout, those that haven’t are converting,” Hwang said. “I worry a lot about our dim sum shops because that’s not really something you get delivered... That’s a real community anchor and people congregate there on the weekends.”