Oregon strippers and sex workers of color financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic are eligible to apply for a federal COVID-relief fund totalling $600,000.
Cat Hollis, the founder of PDX Stripper and Strike and Haymarket Pole Collective – the group distributing the funds – told OregonLive that applicants can be anyone “who has made income from using their or other people’s sexuality to financially assist themselves.”
The funds are part of $45 million in health equity grants distributed by the Oregon Health Authority to lessen the spread of the coronavirus in tribal communities and communities of color that have been disproportionately affected.
Black, Indigenous, and transgender applicants will be given priority, along with applicants living with minor dependents and applicants experiencing homelessness.
Through Haymarket Pole Collective, the funds will provide financial assistance to 75 people who can get as much as $1,600 aid for rent, $500 aid for utilities, and $150 in aid for internet service.
Additionally, 200 applicants will get a wellness tote that includes a mail-in COVID test, a test to detect sexually–transmitted infections, a reusable mask, sanitation and personal hygiene supplies, gift cards for gas and food, and thermometers and blood oximeters.
Applications are accepted until December 1 and funds will be distributed by December 30.
Currently, 93 people have applied for grants.
Haymarket Pole Collective evolved out of PDX Stripper Strike and was formed earlier this year to advocate for fair scheduling for dancers of color. Their goal, according to Hollis, is to bring advocacy, agency, and safety to the places they work.
Hollis said its goals also include providing education, support groups, and childcare for sex workers.
Because most club dancers are contractors instead of employees, most aren’t eligible for traditional unemployment. Clubs have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, creating competition from newcomers to the adult entertainment industry in digital spaces.
“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 to OregonLive. “I think [sex workers] are in a hard spot, not for lack of trying.”
The YWCA of Greater Portland is serving as a fiscal agent for the grant’s distribution. The YWCA provides services to women and families that include domestic violence services and social justice services.
Donations through the YWCA for the PDX Stripper Strike are tax-deductible. To apply for a grant or for more information, visit haymarketpole.com.
By: Hannah Ramsey