UMATILLA COUNTY — Small businesses in Umatilla County now have another resource for some economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners redirected the $68,000 remaining in its economic development grant fund Wednesday into an emergency relief grant fund for small businesses suffering during the outbreak.

“We’re still working on the framework,” said Gail Nelson, economic development coordinator with the county. “We’re trying to get it spread out to as many people as we can to help, but also help them take advantage of other current funding that’s starting to become available.”

The Umatilla County Economic Development Grants Committee coordinates the quarterly grant program, which is funded by the Oregon Lottery and distributed to small businesses to stimulate economic development, promote tourism and support community development in the county.

Now, the committee will help coordinate the distribution of $1,000 grants to small businesses that are struggling due to the pandemic. Those wanting the relief will need to apply during a one- or two-week window, though a lottery system will be in place and not all applications will be selected.

The idea is for businesses to utilize these grants in addition to incoming help from the $2 trillion stimulus package coming from the federal government later in April.

“I still would hope that we give careful attention to what kind of businesses, sole proprietor or otherwise, that might have been overlooked in the help packages,” Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock said.

The economic development department is still ironing out exactly what the application and selection process will look like, Nelson said, but Umatilla County Commissioner John Shafer emphasized businesses from each community in the county will be eligible.

“The biggest thing I wanted to make sure was everyone in the county had access to it,” he said.

Nelson said the number of relief grants distributed to each community in the county will be tied to the percentage of the population that community represents, which is the same as the usual economic development grant program.

Though $68,000 is currently available, the county also agreed to distribute any additional money that may be added to the fund as it becomes available.

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