The Portland City Council has approved a plan for more than $1.7 million in emergency federal grants related to coronavirus response, including a new rental assistance program for people who are at risk of homelessness due to the pandemic.

Portland received that money as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. City staff presented their recommendations for those grants Monday, and they were approved by the City Council.

Their vote dedicated $500,000 to a new rental assistance program for people who cannot pay rent or utilities because the pandemic has resulted in a loss of income. The city outlined a number of requirements for that program, including that the benefit will only be open to people who are not receiving any other federal rent assistance and whose household income is at or below 80 percent of the area median income.

The benefit is capped at three months of no more than $750 per month in rental assistance and a maximum of $250 in utility assistance. City officials explained that number was based in part on historical requests for rental assistance from General Assistance.

“We realize that it is highly unlikely that $750 is going to cover rent 100 percent for many people, but it would be a good start,” said Mary Davis, the director of the city’s Housing and Community Development Division.

The city dedicated more than $570,000 for its own shelter operations, including more than $130,000 for hotel vouchers for homeless families and individuals.

Some of the money went to direct grants, like $75,000 to a peer outreach program at Amistad. Other amounts will be open to applications, like $175,000 for programs that provide food assistance and $20,000 for other homeless shelters.

More than $305,000 will also fund emergency grants of $2,500 or $5,000 for small businesses in Portland.

Councilor Tae Chong recused himself from those votes. The remaining councilors voted unanimously in favor of the city staff’s spending plan for the grant money.

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