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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Frequently Asked Questions (English)

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What is the Small Business Program for Utility Relief (SPUR)?

The Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services have allocated one million dollars to provide financial support to Portland’s small businesses. We will give one-time credits on qualifying businesses’ sewer/stormwater/water bills.

Credits are expected to range from $1,000 to $10,000 and will help between 200 and 300 small businesses. This program is modeled after Prosper Portland’s Small Business Relief Fund, which provides money to small businesses affected by the pandemic economic and public health emergency.

You can apply from July 8 –22 (application closes at 5:00 PM): portlandoregon.gov/water/smallbiz. Applications are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Russian. If you have questions, or would like to request interpretation services or accommodations for people with disabilities, contact us at smallbiz@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-7770.


Who is eligible?

To qualify, the business must:

  • Receive sewer, stormwater, and/or water service from the City of Portland. 
  • Have lost revenue due to the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Have two million dollars or less in annual gross revenue (in 2019).
  • Have fifty or fewer employees.
  • Have been in operation and in compliance with the State of Oregon registration requirements on or prior to July 1, 2019. (Sole proprietors operating under the owner’s name are not required to register with the State of Oregon, so they meet this eligibility requirement.)

 All applications will be evaluated using a racial equity and vulnerability lens. We are committed to centering racial equity in our response to the pandemic.


How can I apply?

Online applications are open July 8 –22 (application closes at 5:00 PM) at portlandoregon.gov/water/smallbiz. Every application will be evaluated using a racial equity and vulnerability lens. All of the applications will be evaluated at the same time; it doesn’t matter whether you apply at the beginning or the end of the application period.

Applications are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Russian. If you have questions, or would like to request interpretation services or accommodations for people with disabilities, contact us at smallbiz@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-7770.


What's the timeline for applying for the program and receiving funds? 

  • Wednesday, July 8: Applications open
  • Wednesday, July 22: Applications close (application closes at 5:00 PM)
  • Wednesday, August 5: Credits announced, applicants notified
  • Wednesday, August 19: Credits applied to accounts

How will businesses receive the money? 

If your application is approved, you will receive funding as a one-time credit on your sewer/stormwater/water bill. 


What if my small business does not directly receive a sewer/stormwater/water bill?

Not all small businesses receive a utility bill directly from the city; some pay those costs through rent. Businesses interested in the program should collaborate with the utility bill account holder on the application process and negotiate how to share any bill credit. Account holders who apply and indicate that they are working with their tenants, will be ranked higher ranking for receiving funds.  


What if my small business operates from my home?

The SPUR application is open to home-based businesses. For the application, the business will need to enter the account number where it receives sewer/stormwater/water service.


 My business made slightly more than $2 million in 2019, but with COVID impacts, we are making much less. Do I qualify to apply?

Unfortunately, only the businesses who made $2 million or less in 2019 are eligible for this program. We recognize that many members within the small business community need resources right now. Given our limited program funding, we established this threshold in order to assist the most vulnerable businesses that have limited access to capital. Please visit Prosper Portland’s COVID-19 Business Resources page for information about other programs that may help you.


 What if my business has multiple accounts with the City?

Each business is eligible to apply only once. Our goal is to support as many businesses as possible through this program. If your business has multiple accounts, please enter one account number. Choose the one with the highest sewer/stormwater/water charges or the one that otherwise makes sense to you. 


I run a nonprofit. I see that I am not eligible, but can you help?

Nonprofit organizations who provide childcare services are eligible for the program. Unfortunately, all others are not eligible. We are dedicating the limited funding available to support small businesses and are using an equity lens to prioritize BIPOC-owned (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) businesses.  We know that nonprofits are also struggling and that you do important work for our community. Below are some ways that we can still help you can manage your bill, and some links to resources for nonprofits.

  • Sign up for monthly billing or set up a payment arrangement with the Portland Water Bureau: 503-823-7770 or PWBCustomerService@portlandoregon.gov
  • Get a free water efficiency consultation or order free water efficiency devices: conserve@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-4527
  • Sign up for Clean River Rewards: cleanriverrewards.com

 Other resources

  • The Nonprofit Association of Oregon has information about COVID-19 economic relief and funding, plus other resources for employers:  nonprofitoregon.org/news/covid-19-resources.
  • Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington has a list of grants and other financial help available to local nonprofits: gosw.org/covid19/.

 I am not eligible for this program. What else can I do to manage my sewer/stormwater/water bill?

Below are some ways you can manage your bill, and some links to other resources.

  • Sign up for monthly billing or set up a payment arrangement with the Portland Water Bureau: 503-823-7770 or PWBCustomerService@portlandoregon.gov
  • Get a free water efficiency consultation or order free water efficiency devices: conserve@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-4527
  • Sign up for Clean River Rewards: cleanriverrewards.com

What should I do about my business’s bills while waiting to hear if I will receive a SPUR credit?

Continue to pay your utility bill. If you’re struggling to make payments, contact the Water Bureau to set up a payment plan. The Water Bureau is not currently shutting water off for non-payment.

If your business is approved for this program, we will apply a credit to your existing sewer/stormwater/water bill. You will still be responsible for any remaining charges on the bill and payment arrangements will still be available to you.


Where is the money coming from? Will this program raise rates?

This program provides relief in the form of a bill credit, not an out-of-pocket cost for the utility bureaus. The bureaus are anticipating an overall reduction in revenue because of the pandemic, and SPUR is part of that anticipated reduction. No rate increase is tied to this program.

This is a wise business decision for the bureaus and the right thing to do. The utility bureaus are investing in small businesses now, so they will be here to invest in sewer/stormwater/water infrastructure for years to come. The bureaus are supporting businesses now so they can stay in business, recover, and continue to contribute to our community.


Who will decide who gets a credit?

The utility bureaus have invited a group of community business representatives to guide the selection process for this program. This group will use the eligibility criteria and equity and vulnerability priorities set out by City Council to prioritize the applications. The committee includes representatives from:

  • Council for Economic and Racial Equity
  • Portland Utility Board
  • Oregon Native American Chamber
  • Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon
  • Black American Chamber
  • Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Oregon
  • Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce

Why is the City doing this?

Commissioner Amanda Fritz heard from the business community, particularly from communities of color, women, and others with historical disadvantages to capital, that the financial burden of the pandemic was becoming untenable. These small businesses are the fabric of the community that we love and wish to preserve. Commissioner Fritz asked the Water Bureau to work with community partners to find ways to support small businesses. We recognize that the pandemic has had profound impacts on small businesses, and this funding will not singlehandedly save them. We hope it provides relief to small business owners who were worried about paying sewer/stormwater/water bills.


Why aren't you offering this to businesses outside of Portland?

SPUR program money comes from Portlander's sewer/stormwater/water bills. To be fair to those ratepayers, only Portland businesses are eligible for this funding. 


How can I find out more?

Find program details on our website: portlandoregon.gov/water/smallbiz. Email smallbiz@portlandoregon.gov or call 503-823-7770 for support.


Questions?

smallbiz@portlandoregon.gov | 503-823-7770