By Karen McNeil-Miller, president & CEO, The Colorado Health Foundation (Denver, CO)
Coloradans are facing unparalleled health, social and economic setbacks as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While this crisis may be temporary for some, it’s slamming the door on stability and well-being for others – deepening inequities that keep health out of reach.
People who have historically had less power and privilege due to race and socioeconomic status are bearing the brunt – losing jobs, health care (if they were lucky enough to have it in the first place), child care and even their homes. These families have defied the odds time and time again, yet this new landscape is buckling their knees and testing resilience. Where is their relief?
Organizations working on the front lines to address rapidly increasing emergencies related to food, housing and safety net services were already stretched thin, and now even more so. Nonprofit staffers and health professionals are working tirelessly to meet basic needs with dwindling supplies and insufficient protections.
Our grantees and partners are helping us understand the critical needs emerging from communities disproportionately affected. We are here for you – and we are working to open doors as fast as we can.
We’ve Only Just Begun
We’re always looking for ways to open doors. That’s our approach every day – and it’s our obsession during this unprecedented crisis. We can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen, or how long this will play out, but as long as marginalized individuals and families living on low income need us, we’ll stand with them.
We’re doing our best to open as many doors for as many people as we can – quickly. We’re continuously adjusting our response plans based on what we’re hearing from the communities we exist to serve. We know small but mighty community-based organizations are going to be pushed to their operational limits, some even to closure. We’re thinking about service providers, too. We know you’re tired and working harder than ever. The challenges of this crisis are unprecedented, as are the demands on our nonprofit sector. As long as folks focused on health equity need us, we’ll be here – standing with you.
We’re continuing to consider scenarios to figure out how to open as many doors as possible, and to identify changes we’ll need to make for the foreseeable future to meet the needs of this crisis and its aftermath.
We’re Taking Immediate Action
The Foundation has committed to the Council on Foundations’ pledge to take critical action with fierce urgency to support our nonprofit partners as this catastrophe unfolds. Here’s how we’re carrying this promise forward:
We trust the expertise of our grantees – especially at a time like this. As such, we’ve made all current project and capacity building grants flexible so grantees can use funds to address COVID-19-related challenges. We’ve also suspended grant reporting requirements until at least June 30, 2020, and we’re offering no-cost extensions for all grants. (Questions? Reference our FAQs for grantees.)
In addition to the flexibility we’ve made available for current grants, to date, we’ve given $13.5 million to relief efforts and related challenges across Colorado, including but not limited to:
- $1.2 million to the statewide, coordinated Colorado COVID Relief Fund, providing grants to nonprofits working in prevention, impact and recovery with disproportionately affected populations
- $1 million to food access and security efforts, including Feeding Colorado food banks and the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger’s COVID-19 Hunger Relief Fund, supporting communities at greater risk of economic consequences of the crisis
- $1.5 million to primary care, with donations directed to federally qualified health centers and other community safety net clinics
- $960,000 to housing supports, with donations for organizations serving people experiencing homelessness and homeless encampments
- $2 million to health care for personal protective equipment production and procurement, and to support public health planning efforts
- $3.8 million to small, community-based nonprofits aligned with our cornerstones and serving populations disproportionately affected by the crisis
- $500,000 to the Ayuda Fund at the Latino Community Foundation
- $500,000 to The Women’s Foundation of Colorado
We’ve compiled a variety of resources, including information about emergency funding across the state, the government response (at federal, state and local levels), crisis communications tips, business operations aids, and population- and issue-specific equity tools.
If you missed our briefing on the Federal, State and Local Government Response (March 20), watch the recording and check out our Local Jurisdictions Tracker to understand what cities, counties and school districts are putting in place.
We’ve also made the difficult decision to cancel the Colorado Health Symposium (July 29-31, 2020) and we’re considering alternatives. We thank all who participated in exploratory conversations around this year’s theme. Your input will help with future endeavors.
Let’s Open More Doors
As this crisis develops, communities can help us understand which doors need opening, what’s getting in the way and how we can keep them open. I’m confident we can curb long-term impacts on the Coloradans hit hardest – but only if we give now and give generously. That means all of us – all who have the power to listen to community and open doors.
In a state of nearly six million people, hundreds of thousands enjoy financial stability. Imagine if just 25,000 Coloradans who have the means gave the equivalent of the $1,200 stimulus check we’ve heard about to organizations working on the front lines. That alone would infuse $30 million into the coronavirus response across the state.
Bottom line: there are no wrong doors to giving. Whatever door you choose, there’s someone in need on the other side – someone dealing with a reality starkly different than our own. Giving is our obligation. Giving is our sustenance. Giving is our humanity. If you can give, and if you can encourage others to give, please – open doors.