New wave of city-sponsored business loans in the works

In May, the City of Keizer awarded 18 $2,500 grants to local businesses struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to a matching grant from Oregon Business Development Department, another round of grants will be offered. 

The new grants will look quite different from the first wave, in which a total of $45,000 was awarded via drawing business names out of a bucket. There could also be far fewer grants available out of the second $45,000 allotment. 

Because the money is arriving through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress earlier this year, there will be a completely different system of awarding grants. 

This time around, grants could range from $2,500 to $12,500 depending on the number of employees or verifiable expenses. Applications will likely be accepted through the city’s website,

“These loans will also be geared toward minority-owned or historically disadvantaged businesses,” said City Manager Chris Eppley.

“The goal of the program is also trying to get at least 50 percent of the grant awards to sole proprietors,” added Shane Witham, interim development director. 

Keizer had applied to receive a matching grant from a state program ordering a cash infusion into local businesses, but the terms the city set for the first round of grants did not align with that program. 

Under the terms of the CARES agreement, the city could be eligible for up to $1.1 million in federal reimbursements for expenditures related to COVID-19. However, the city would need to spend the money first, then apply for reimbursement.

Eppley said the reimbursements did not seem to cover staff time related to COVID-19 issues, but that it could cover some other pandemic-related projects. 

“We are looking at renovating the customer service counters in the civic center as a result of the pandemic and it may cover those sorts of expenses,” Eppley said. “It looks as though we could possibly partner with some social service organizations to help them. We’re going to work hard to get this back into the community.”


The original money approved for the first round of grants was a result of fortuitous timing. In January, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and massive economic shutdowns, the city agreed to accept $15,000 a year from Marion County over the next three years. Part of the agreement was determining how the money, which is coming from the Oregon Lottery, would be used. Numerous possibilities were mentioned, but all fell to the wayside in the wake of COVID-19’s spread and councilors embraced a forgivable business loan program. 

Potential projects that lost out included: prepping city-owned properties to be placed on the market for lease; development and support of sports facilities; revitalization of public investment projects, installation of a food truck pod on city-owned property; and paying consultants to advise the city on creation of an urban renewal district or expanding Keizer’s urban growth boundary for employment land.