LOS ANGELES—Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, sex workers have found themselves left out of federal economic relief packages, as the United States government often explicitly prohibited aid funds to go to sex-related businesses. But the state of Oregon is now taking steps to change that, and improve life for at least some of its sex worker population.
Largely thanks to efforts by the Portland-based sex-worker advocacy group Haymarket Pole Collective, the state will now make $600,000 in federal funds available to 75 sex workers who apply for the relief, according to a report by The Oregonian.
The funds will be drawn from the $45 million in COVID-19 Health Equity grants allocated to the state by the federal government. The “grants are intended to address the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Oregon’s tribal communities and communities of color,” according to the Oregon Health Authority.
As a result, priority among applicants for the sex worker funds will be given to sex workers of color, as well as indigenous and transgender sex workers. But applications are open to any Oregonian “who has made income from using their or other people’s sexuality to financially assist themselves,” according to Haymarket Pole Collective founder Cat Hollis, whose organization will administer the $600,000 in grant money, through the YWCA of Greater Portland.
The 75 grant recipients can expect to receive up to $1,600 is help with rent payments, as well as $500 toward utility bills, and $150 to maintain internet service.
Another 200 applicants, while receiving no cash, will be given a “wellness tote, which will include a mail-in COVID test and sexually-transmitted infection test, reusable masks, personal hygiene supplies, sanitizer products, gas and grocery gift cards, thermometers and blood oximeters,” according to The Oregonian report.
As of last week, the program had already received 93 applications — 18 more than the total number of grants that will be handed out. The application deadline is December 1, with funds being distributed through December 30.
The Haymarket Pole Collective describes itself as “a group of autonomous sex workers who share a common vision of our labor liberated from the binds of racism, patriarchy, ableism, and other oppressive structures.”
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