Local Help with Food, Shelter, and Utilities During the COVID-19 Crisis
Times are tough out there for many of us right now, but thankfully, Oregon has a wide array of resources, both public and private, that can help if you need assistance with food, shelter, or utilities. Please don’t feel like you’re alone! These organizations are doing everything they can to help Oregonians under very challenging circumstances.
On the flip side, if you have the financial resources to help any of these organizations, please consider doing so. They can use any help they receive right now to make the good they’re doing go even further.
Snowcap Food Pantry
SnowCap Food Pantry is the largest food pantry in Oregon, and they regularly serve thousands of people in our community. But their services look quite different right now. They are distributing pre-packed boxes of food, including as much fresh and frozen food as they can. Food is being given to people outside the front doors of the pantry. If you can’t make it to SnowCap, just send a note with a friend or a neighbor and they can pick up the food for you.
Just last month, SnowCap had to cancel their annual auction (including a paddle raise) due to COVID-19. The auction and paddle raise comprise nearly a fifth of their annual budget. If you have the financial resources, please consider a generous monetary donation to SnowCap so they can help people both now and in the future.
Both Sunshine Division food pantries are open and are distributing emergency food boxes (one per week)—these are emergency boxes are in addition to any food people normally receive from Sunshine Division. Food boxes are distributed outside for everyone’s safety. See locations and hours here. If you’re interested in giving, just go here to make a donation.
Oregon Food Bank Partnerships
Oregon Food Bank is a large, statewide organization that collects food from manufacturers, farmers, wholesalers, individuals, and retailers and then distributes that food through a system of 21 regional food banks and around 1400 partner pantries and food assistance sites throughout Oregon. There are many of these food assistance sites in our area—check out the search feature here to find a location near you.
If you’d like to donate to the cause, know that 93% of every dollar you give goes directly to hunger relief. Just go here to make a quick and easy donation. There are few better ways to have a meaningful impact on your fellow Oregonians during this time.
School District Meals
Many food-insecure children will suffer because of not being in school for such an extended period of time, since school is where they receive much of their food and nutrition. Quite a few Oregon school districts are partnering with Hunger-Free Oregon to offer free meals to children ages 1 to 18 to pick up and go. You do not have to live in that school district to receive the meals. Go to this spreadsheet for an updated list of school districts that are handing out meals. This is a more detailed spreadsheet of Multnomah-area schools that are handing out food for children.
If you’re able to contribute to the cost of these meals, Hunger-Free Oregon will gratefully accept your donation. Just go here!
Restaurant Meals for Kids
It’s heartwarming to see so many local restaurants step up and offer meals to kids in need, especially when their own businesses are certainly taking a financial hit. Many of these free meals operate on an honor system and ask that you only get food if your kids need it and/or are on a free or reduced lunch program at school.
Plaza Del Toro (100 DIY food bags from 1 to 3 p.m. daily)
If you’d like to support any of these restaurants that are feeding our kids, consider ordering some take out! You could also buy a gift card now to use later, giving them access to much-needed income now.
Mortgage and Rent
First, you should know that there is a statewide moratorium on evictions that is currently set to go through mid-May. There is also a federal moratorium on home foreclosures (if you have a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgage, which most people do). If you’re struggling to make your mortgage payment, give your mortgage servicer a call and they will work with you to come up with an option that works for your current financial situation. Remember, it’s always best to call rather than to stop making payments!
The Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative can help you if you’re struggling to pay your mortgage during this time.
You must be behind on your mortgage payments and struggling from a financial hardship like a job loss, reduction in income, medical disability, or something similar. The home in question has to be your primary residence as well as the only property you own. Assistance is based on income limits listed here.
Home Forward offers short-term help paying rent for those in need. The organization work with 19 public and non-profit agencies to keep you in your home and keep you off of the streets. Help is based on income qualifications.
Just call 2-1-1 to apply for help (more on that hotline in a minute).
The City of Portland is allocating $1 million dollars to small business owners who meet certain criteria thorough a small business relief fund. This fund includes loan deferrals for existing borrowers who have seen a decline in revenue and a 3-month deferral of rent payments for April, May, and June. See more info here if your business needs help to stay afloat during this time.
You can also sign up for notifications as the situation develops from Prosper Portland here.
Oregon Business Development Fund
Business Oregon has direct loan programs that can offer you access to much-needed capital at this time. Here’s a list of resources that may be helpful right now, including business planning resources, counseling resources, and financial assistance for businesses.
Virtually all major utility companies in Oregon are suspending disconnection of service due to non-payment, as well as ongoing any late fees that normally apply to not paying your bills.
However, if you need help with your utility bills, please contact them and work out a payment plan that works for you. Some utility companies also have funds to help qualified customers out with their bills for a period of time, so it’s absolutely worth your time to see if they can help you. See COVID-19 information and announcements from PGE, NW Natural, Pacific Power, and the Portland Water Bureau.
The Oregon Energy Fund
The Oregon Energy Fund provides energy assistance through 30+ partner agencies and non-profits throughout Oregon. They make payments directly to your utility vendor on your behalf. If you’re in need of help, just go here to get started on the process.
You can also donate to the Oregon Energy Fund right here.
I also wanted to point you in the direction of a couple of other excellent resources for Oregonians.
2-1-1 is a free, confidential way for people in the state to find health and social services resources in your community. The hotline can help refer you to organizations that may be able to help in your particular situation, so please don’t hesitate to give them a call.
COVID-19 Emergency Relief Resources
Congressman Earl Blumenauer and his team have put together this huge list of resources for people in the Portland area. If you need help and don’t find the answer here, I hope you’ll check it out! It’s constantly being updated with new information.
All my heartfelt wishes to those who are struggling during this challenging time. The one thing we can take comfort in as that we’re all in this together. It’s inspiring to see the good that’s come from a difficulty. Thank you to all who are working hard to make this world a better place.