Oregon sex workers can apply for coronavirus relief grants - oregonlive.com

A protester holds up a sign during a PDX Stripper Strike event on June 24, 2020.

Nearly $600,000 in federal COVID-relief funds is available for Oregon strippers and sex workers of color who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Anyone “who has made income from using their or other people’s sexuality to financially assist themselves” can apply, said Cat Hollis, founder of PDX Stripper Strike and Haymarket Pole Collective, which is administering the grant. Priority will be given to Black, Indigenous and transgender applicants, those with minor dependents living in the household and those experiencing homelessness.

The funds are part of $45 million in health equity grants distributed by the Oregon Health Authority to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in tribal communities and communities of color, which have been disproportionally affected by the virus.

The grants will allow Haymarket Pole Collective to provide financial assistance to 75 people, who can receive up to $1,600 in rent assistance, $500 in utility assistance and $150 toward internet services.

Another 200 applicants will receive 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.

Applications will be taken through Dec. 1, and funds will be distributed by Dec. 30.

So far, 93 people have applied for grants.

PDX Stripper Strike was founded earlier this year by strip club dancers advocating for equitable scheduling for dancers of color. It evolved into the group Haymarket Pole Collective.

“PDX Stripper Strike is the verb,” Hollis said. “Haymarket Pole Collective formed out of PDX Stripper Strike realizing that we needed something that would be more long-term. Our strategy is to empower workers in our industry to have advocacy and agency and safety in their workspaces.”

Hollis said the collective’s goals include providing educational services, support groups and childcare for those in the adult entertainment industry.

Most strip club dancers are contractors, not employees, and aren’t eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. Clubs have taken a hit during the pandemic, and Hollis said there’s more competition for digital sex work as people who hadn’t previously worked in adult entertainment tried their luck online.

“Not only has the industry been flooded with people looking for easy income, it had already shrunk in the number of spaces people can safely practice their work in,” Hollis said. “I think (sex workers) are in a hard spot, not for lack of trying.”

This was the Haymarket Pole Collective’s first grant application. The YWCA of Greater Portland, which provides domestic violence services, social justice programs and other services to women and families, is serving as the fiscal agent for the grant’s distribution.

Donations to PDX Stripper Strike are tax-deductible if made through the YWCA at ywcapdx.org/stripperstrike. For more information, or to apply for a grant, visit haymarketpole.com.

-- Samantha Swindler, sswindler@oregonian.com, @editorswindler

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https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2020/11/oregon-sex-workers-can-apply-for-coronavirus-relief-grants.html