Seventh Round of COVID-19 Response Fund Grants Awarded to Provide Basic Supports

Twenty-three organizations across the state will be able to provide help with food, rent, utilities, and other expenses thanks to more than $700,000 in grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund created by the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI).

Hunger continues to be among the most pressing problems facing Rhode Islanders affected by the crisis. Food pantries report seeing demand rise, driven by people who never before needed to seek their help. For many that offer assistance, the challenge of having enough food to distribute has been compounded by the scope of disruptions brought about by the pandemic.

With the latest round of grants, the COVID-19 Response Fund has awarded nearly $8 million to nonprofits across Rhode Island since March 27.

Donors have contributed more than $8.5 million since the crisis began.

Full list of awardees 

Philanthropy Supports ABFE’s Call for Philanthropy to Take Action on Anti-Black Racism

Leaders of many philanthropic support organizations, including United Philanthropy Forum, Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, have issued a letter in solidarity with ABFE:  A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities in their call for philanthropy to take action on anti-Black racism.

ABFE is the oldest affinity group in the country, borne out of a moment of both conflict and action, when Black leaders raised their voices to protest the lack of representation within philanthropy. Since their founding nearly 50 years ago, ABFE has worked to mobilize grantmaking entities, donors and nonprofits to improve outcomes for Black communities and the country as a whole. Now, they are calling on philanthropy to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism by engaging in deep, transformative institutional change; supporting Black communities; and deploying an equity analysis in their work.

The leaders say, “We ask you to read ABFE’s call to action and commit to making change within your own institution. We also encourage your support of ABFE and their work by becoming members of their community.  As ABFE says in their statement, “we must be in it for the long haul.” To that end, our organizations commit to working in partnership with ABFE to offer programming and engagement opportunities that help philanthropy develop the deep partnerships with Black communities needed to provide both immediate support and affect long term change.”

The ABFE statement begins, “Our long-term goal is to free Black people from disparate treatment that result in the racial disparities we see in COVID-19, police brutality and on almost every indicator of well-being. To get there, we must dismantle the structures (institutional policies and practices) that disadvantage and marginalize Black people as well as the false narratives about Black communities that allow for continued inhumane treatment. This will lead to stronger Black communities.

“Philanthropy has a critical role to play and must step forward. In addition, a more robust partnership moving forward between philanthropy, government, businesses and Black communities is needed to address immediate needs and opportunities (targeted COVID-19 relief and police reform); as well as the longer-term strategies to address racial inequity. We need deep, transformative institutional change in this country; foundations and donors that support Black communities, in addition to those from other sectors (government, business, etc.) must commit to and deploy an equity analysis to investments moving forward. This is a marathon, not a sprint and all of us in philanthropy must be in it for the long haul.”

The full statement includes 10 action priorities:

BUILD AGENCY — Increase investments in Black-led organizations that connect individuals and families to a
wide array of resources and build power in our communities to lead substantive change.
PUSH STRUCTURAL CHANGE — Given deep-seated inequities, COVID-19 relief and police reform efforts must
take a “long view” and consider policy and system reform needed to improve conditions in Black communities beyond federal and philanthropic emergency and response efforts.
ENCOURAGE SHARED RESPONSIBILITY — Philanthropic funds, particularly those under the leadership of Black foundation executives are part of the solution. However, the targeted investment of all philanthropies as well as public dollars are needed to transform conditions in Black communities in both relief and long-term efforts.
USE ENDOWMENTS — The health-driven economic recession has negatively impacted foundation endowments. Therefore,
there is increased need to prioritize spending on the most impacted communities.  In addition, now is the time to utilize
the full set of resources of philanthropy by increasing asset payout and employing various investment strategies to provide much needed capital to Black communities.
CENTER BLACK EXPERIENCE — Black leaders and communities must be engaged in the development of short and long-term philanthropic and public policy solutions to ensure that well-intentioned “helping” and reform efforts do not exacerbate existing disparities.
TRUSTEE ACCOUNTABILITY — Foundation trustees are accountable for the strategic direction, fiscal health and policies implemented by the institutions for which they govern. During this time of crisis, foundation boards should take stock of the level of grantmaking to Black communities, increase targeted giving and engage in racial equity assessments of their investments moving forward. It is necessary for national Boards to do so but critically important for foundation boards in the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus with sizeable Black populations (e.g., New York, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, etc.).
ENGAGE BLACK BUSINESSES — Foundations and the public sector should actively engage Black businesses in investment management, banking, and other professional services to address the pandemic’s negative impact on Black earnings and wealth
LIFT UP GENDER — The health and economic well-being of both Black people are under threat due to COVID-19; however,
its’ impacts also differ by gender , gender identity and sexual orientation. Black women are suffering worse relative to job loss. Emerging data illustrates that Black men are at higher risk of death and racial profiling relative to COVID-19. Black LGBTQ communities are particularly vulnerable due to higher rates of suppressed immune systems and widespread housing and employment discrimination. Response efforts must take into account these differences, to ensure that all people of African descent are connected to economic opportunities, healthy and are safe from personal and statesanctioned violence
REACH TO THE DIASPORA — The racially charged impact of COVID-19 extends beyond U.S. borders. Black communities in the U.S. territories have been left out of many relief efforts and African immigrants are being targeted in both the U.S (as part of America’s Black population) and other parts of the world. During crises, we must remain vigilant of how anti-Black racism impacts people of African descent around the world and look for opportunities to unite our philanthropic efforts to save and support Black lives.
ADDRESS DISPARITIES IN PRISONS — U.S. prisons are disproportionately filled with Black and Brown people and are
breeding grounds for the spread of coronavirus, other infectious diseases, and, generally, hopelessness.  COVID
-19 relief efforts have reminded us that institutional custody should be reserved as a last resort when there is a risk of community safety or flight. That use of institutional custody must become a standard of operating in all instances. Current efforts must support the safety of those currently imprisoned, early release of incarcerated individuals and advance sustained investments in alternatives that reduce reliance on incarceration over the long-term to support Black communities.

CVS Health and Rhode Island Foundation Donations Provide Computers and Wi-Fi Hotspots for RI Students for Distance Learning

GCRI members Rhode Island Foundation and CVS Health led almost 70 donors in support of Rhode Island Department of Education’s (RIDE) Distance Learning Initiative.  RIDE estimates that the more than $400,000 raised will fund the purchase of approximately 400 hotspots and 1,200 computers to close technology gaps for students and families.

Rhode Island Foundation made an initial challenge donation to the initiative of $100,000. CVS Health donated $150,000 to enable the Woonsocket Education Department to purchase 750 Chromebook laptops for students in grades three through five. The assistance will round out the effort to ensure that every Pre-K through grade 12 student in the district has access to technology for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statewide, the majority of students are able to access Distance Learning opportunities using technology provided by local education agencies. However, RIDE has identified pockets of need in some school communities, including families with multiple students or households without access to internet connectivity. The donations will be distributed to those school communities or used directly to purchase Chromebooks and hotspots.

The Fund will continue to accept charitable contributions in any amount at rifoundation.org/RIEducation as long as the need continues.

COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund Makes $3.7 Million in Grants

The new COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation, funded by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Tufts Health Plan, as well as Neighborhood Health Plan and United HealthCare, has awarded $3.7 million in grants to more than three dozen organizations, including the Samaritans of Rhode Island, Bradley Hospital and Newport Mental Health to help Rhode Islanders cope with the behavioral health challenges of COVID-19.  More information 

Tufts Health Plan Supports Organizations Responding to Inequities

Tufts Health Plan Foundation announced $170,000 in grants to 10 nonprofit organizations, part of the $1 million it committed to support community efforts addressing coronavirus in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut. In total, 49 organizations on the front lines of the pandemic have received funding.

“The resilience of our communities is inspiring,” said Tom Croswell, Tufts Health Plan president and CEO. “Nonprofits are grappling with a shifting landscape and uncertain timelines, yet they continue to respond to community needs and deliver vital services. We are proud to support such dedicated organizations.”

This funding goes to organizations working to improve access to food and respond to inequities in housing and services. It bolsters collaborative regional responses, particularly in communities reporting the highest rates of COVID-19 infection.  In Rhode Island, Federal Hill House and Progreso Latino received funding.

Bank Newport Responds to COVID-19 with Donations and Volunteerism

Earlier this year, before the onset of COVID-19, 35 employee volunteers from BankNewport and its sister agency, OceanPoint Insurance, participated in a meal-packaging project with the United Way of Rhode Island. In just two hours, the team packaged 12,000 meals for local food pantries, including FabNewport, the MLK Community Center, East Bay Community Action Program, and We Share Hope, a contribution that unknowingly would fill an immediate need.

As the pandemic grew, the Bank’s Community Fund Committee redirected its grant funds to extend immediate financial support with grants totaling $250,000 to the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island COVID-19 Response Fund, and most recently a $100,000 grant to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. In addition, more than $78,000 in sponsorship funds earmarked for nonprofit fundraising events were released to help meet their immediate needs. OceanPoint Insurance also contributed $2,500 to the COVID-19 Response Fund at the United Way during 401 Gives Day.

In addition to its ongoing community support, BankNewport has been working around the clock to fulfill loan requests for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as an emergency micro loan program in partnership with Rhode Island Commerce, the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.  Through these programs to date, BankNewport has awarded a total of $101.5 million in loans to approximately 1,200 small businesses in Rhode Island, including restaurants, retailers, and sole proprietors.  The Bank has also waived fees as part of its customer assistance program.

Funders Encouraged to Support Nonprofit Technology

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores an urgent reality: The baseline of digital preparedness at global nonprofits is lower than imagined and requires new funding and support.

NTEN, NetHope, and the Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG) issued a call to funders nationally to support nonprofit technology needs.  The call identifies the most pressing technology needs for nonprofits worldwide today as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and tomorrow as recovery begins, as well as examples of grantmaker responses and suggestions for additional investment in a digital infrastructure for civil society.

Now more than ever, nonprofits need support from funders that recognizes the entire cost of their work – work that is critical for communities across the globe right now. The full cost of digital infrastructure is significant and includes not only the hardware and software to shift virtual teams and program delivery, but also the skills and training to select, implement, and use these tools, as well as the long-term need to make strategic decisions about their technology roadmap.

Nonprofit Tech Needs During COVID-19

According to research by NTEN, TAG, and NetHope, the greatest technology needs for nonprofits throughout the COVID-19 crisis are the following:

  1. Reliable internet access
  2. Hardware, such as laptops, mobile devices, connectivity, and reliable power in vulnerable countries
  3. Software for remote work, paperless billing, virtual events, process approvals, fundraising, etc.
  4. Funding to enable program continuity in their transition from in-person to remote service delivery
  5. One-on-one support for tool selection, implementation, remote training strategy
  6. Training resources
  7. Flexible funding for reallocation according to needs

How Funders Can Respond

What can your foundation do, both in the short-term and long-term? This briefing by NetHope, NTEN, and TAG outlines ways to equip the humanitarian sector during the immediate response phase of COVID-19. For the longer-term recovery phase, we offer ways to engage in strategic efforts toward funding and building a digital infrastructure for the nonprofit sector.

More information

Latest Round of Funding from RI COVID-19 Response Fund Brings Total Grantmaking to $7.2 million

The Rhode Island COVID-19 Response Fund has now allocated a total of $7.2 million to 180 organizations, to provide emergency support for food, rent, utilities and medical expenses.

The sixth round of grants also provided protective gear for health care workers caring for patients at nearly a dozen nursing homes and medical facilities across the state.  The fund includes over $1 million in funding from GCRI member organizations, and is spearheaded by the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island.

Full list of grantees

CVS Health Provides $1 Million to Support Mental Health for Frontline Workers

CVS Health announced its commitment to flattening the “second curve,” the less visible but escalating mental health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. To help address America’s expanding mental and emotional wellbeing needs, the company is enhancing its nationwide mental health programming effort with new charitable investments focused on health care workers, essential workers and seniors.

Since March 1, CVS Health has seen a 200 percent increase in virtual mental health visits as compared to the same period last year, as well as substantial increases in calls for help with psychological distress including anxiety, grief and loss, and trauma. Health care workers are under extreme stress and anxiety fighting to save lives, while in many cases, isolating themselves after shifts to keep their own family safe. Self-isolation also affects older adults whose only social contacts are outside of their homes.

CVS Health will increase access to the following resources through targeted financial support:

  • Supporting Americares COVID-19 Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Project with a $500,000 contribution from the Aetna Foundation to help frontline health care workers, particularly those who serve low-income populations, improve their mental health awareness, knowledge and resiliency, and understand the mental health concerns impacting their patients.
  • Expert crisis support for frontline health care and essential workers through Crisis Text Line via a $300,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation. For the Frontlines is a dedicated effort to provide 24/7 confidential direct mental health support for those on the frontlines, including health care workers dealing with the stress, anxiety, fear, depression and/or isolation associated with COVID-19. Health care and essential workers can text FRONTLINE to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to communicate with a trained volunteer crisis counselor at no cost.

CVS Health is also making Aetna’s Resources for Living (RFL) program available to everyone, which includes phone support, assistance for employers, support for basic needs, as well as educational resources.

Finally, CVS Health is offering increased support for its own employees through various resources that help build mental health resilience, cope with uncertainty, reduce stress and stay connected. These services will be delivered with 7 Cups, an online platform that connects people to a caring, emotionally supportive volunteer listener to prevent depression and anxiety.

More Information

Collette Hosts New Pawtucket/Central Falls COVID-19 Outreach

GCRI member Collette has announced that it will serve as a partner and section leader of the CFP BEAT COVID-19 initiative. Colette will be contributing to the leadership of the CFP BEAT COVID-19 incident command team, providing the entire enterprise with logistical support, including information management services and phone banking.

“We are proud to support the efforts of both the City of Pawtucket and Central Falls,” said Mike Vendetti, Director of Property Safety and Security at Collette. “We know that this is such an important task to benefit the community as a whole.”

The CFP BEAT COVID-19 initiative has committed itself to reach out to every single household in the two cities, so that every resident in the cities knows what to do and who to call the moment they get sick due to the exponentially growing numbers of positive cases.

“We are deeply grateful for the resources and workforce that Collette and the Sullivan family have committed to this effort. There is no better corporate citizen anywhere,” said Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “We estimate that nearly 50,000 people in Pawtucket and Central Falls do not have a primary health care doctor. Collette’s invaluable assistance will help us reach out to every single household in our two cities”

“Roughly 45% of the Covid-19 positive tests are Latino, and Central Falls and Pawtucket cases continue to increase exponentially,” said Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa. “Bringing an organization like Collette has come to our rescue, in a way that we hope will allow us to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in our communities.”

“People are positive at a very high rate in Pawtucket and Central Falls,” said Michael Fine, M.D, Medical Director of CFP BEAT COVID-19 initiative. “At Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, Central Falls and Pawtucket residents are testing at 36% and 33% Covid-19 positive respectively. This is nearly three times the state average rate. Our communities are a likely hotspot.  We are very grateful to Colette Travel so we can together make sure that people are getting tested and isolating accordingly when sick.”

As part of the CFP BEAT COVID-19 initiative, the Mayors and Care New England have announced a Coronavirus testing site that has more than triple the capacity of existing test sites in the Blackstone Valley as a first step. The team is now working on the next step to combat Covid-19, aiming to create a telephone consultation service for people in our cities who do not have primary care physicians.