SALEM — Hundreds of commercial landlords and tenants who applied for state funding to cover unpaid rent went away empty-handed last month — a disappointment worth approximately $15.5 million.

Oregon's Commercial Rent Relief program is set to hand out $49.9 million to property owners after the first round of grant funding closed on March 22.

Applications outpaced cash, with the requests totaling $65.4 million.

The results aren't unexpected: Oregon hasn't had a commercial eviction moratorium in place since the end of September 2020, and business owners in arrears had until March 31 to make up the back rent.

But state data released to Pamplin Media Group shows those applicants with empty pockets — more than 350 business owners in total — are all located in the Portland metro area.

"There was simply more demand than supply in the metro region," said Nathan Buehler, a spokesman for Business Oregon. "Only some businesses in the Portland metro area weren't able to get funded, but they will automatically be considered in round two of funding we'll roll out mid-April."

The state's agency funding formula allocates 20% of the fund each to Portland metro and Willamette Valley businesses, as well as a 15% slice each to the eastern, southern, central and coastal regions of the state. But rural applications came in well below their cap, so the money rolled over and Portland area businesses ended up with 63.7% of the allocation.

"The lottery process took out 356 applications," said Buehler, "resulting in 2,609 applications that will move forward for funding."

Unlike Oregon's residential rent relief program, the commercial program doesn't favor smaller landlords. But the commercial tenants seeking state money to pay their lease must be for-profit businesses, based in Oregon, with fewer than 100 employees per storefront.

An FAQ prepared by the state says marijuana dispensaries are ineligible for the program, because "business must be compliant with all local, state and federal laws." Nonprofit tenants are also barred from the program, as the "scope of the nonprofits' activities vary tremendously from one to another and are not all commercial enterprises," according to the FAQ.

Grants are limited to $100,000 per business and $3 million per landlord. Applications will open again later this month.

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