Blue Cross Makes $500,000 Investment in Housing

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for safe and affordable homes, as Rhode Islanders stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.  But for many residents, this basic need is out of reach or increasingly unstable, a finding reinforced by last year’s launch of the RI Life Index, a data source that focuses on the life factors that influence health and well-being.

In response, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) redirected the focus of its 2020 BlueAngel Community Health Grant program (BACHG) and awarded $500,000 to nine local organizations committed to improving access to affordable housing. This is in addition to $200,000 BCBSRI awarded to five housing-related agencies at the end of 2019.

The organizations receiving funding in 2020 are each finding creative ways to make healthy and affordable housing a reality for those most in need, as well as helping them to become self-sufficient, whether through building vocational skills, learning how to negotiate with a landlord and understand tenant rights, or, in the case of formerly incarcerated individuals, receiving case management assistance and reentry support.

“Based on the results of the RI Life Index, we were determined to take action on affordable and safe housing, one of the best-researched social determinants of health. We know that selective housing interventions can improve health outcomes and quality of life, which is our ultimate goal for Rhode Islanders,” said Kim Keck, BCBSRI president and CEO. “Lack of access to affordable and safe housing has been exacerbated by COVID-19, and we are grateful to the organizations who continue to work tirelessly to combat this issue. We look forward to collaborating with them in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

Grantees include Amos House, Child & Family, Foster Forward, Lucy’s Hearth, OpenDoors,  Providence Housing Authority, Rhode Island Legal Services, Sojourner House, Rhode Island Center for Justice.

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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

Citizens Bank Awards $165,000 in Grants to RI Small Businesses and Nonprofits

Eleven Rhode Island small businesses and nonprofits received a total of $165,000 in grants as part of Citizens Bank’s Small Business Recovery Program,

The $15,000 grants come as part of a $5 million commitment Citizens announced earlier this month aimed at helping communities amid the coronavirus crisis, including $2 million in direct grants to 134 small-business customers across the company’s business footprint.

Rhode Island nonprofit recipients include Better Lives Rhode Island, Sojourner House, The McAuley Corp., Urban Greens Food Co-op and the West Broadway Neighborhood Association.

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.

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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.

Over $840,000 in Federal Funds to Rhode Island for Arts & Humanities COVID-19 Relief

Rhode Island’s statewide arts and humanities agencies will receive $840,600 in federal funds designated for relief to arts and cultural organizations affected by the COVID-19 health crisis, according to a joint statement by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (Humanities Council).

The funds come from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, established in part to preserve jobs and help support organizations forced to close operations due to the spread of COVID-19.

RISCA will receive $424,300 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Humanities Council will receive $416,300 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Rhode Island’s share is part of the $150 million allocated to the federal cultural organizations through the CARES Act.

Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, expressed thanks for the increased federal support. “Rhode Island’s arts and cultural organizations have been deeply affected by the current crisis,” said Rosenbaum. “The economic loss to arts organizations is estimated at over $4.5 billion nationwide. Here in Rhode Island the livelihood of a sector that contributes over $1 billion annually to our economy is being threatened.”

Elizabeth Francis, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities noted that “This is a daunting and uncertain time, and humanities organizations have experienced unprecedented losses. The Humanities Council and RISCA were chosen to distribute these funds because of our well-established relationships with museums, historical societies, libraries, theaters, arts organizations, and cultural institutions that are anchors of our communities. One thing I am certain about is that these organizations will help Rhode Islanders understand and weather this crisis.”

Both Rosenbaum and Francis expressed gratitude to the state’s Congressional delegation. “This support from the NEH and NEA as part of the CARES act is thanks in large part to the sustained commitment by Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Representatives Langevin and Cicilline to the arts and humanities in Rhode Island.”

Second Round of SBA Loans Open

Second Round of SBA Payroll Protection Program Opens Monday, April 27

Last week, Congress passed an “interim” spending bill to further support small-business loan programs, which provides a total of $484 billion in new spending, including funds for the PPP and EIDL programs of the U.S. Small Business Administration:

  • $310 billion in new money for the Paycheck Protection Program (which is open to nonprofits)
  • $50 billion to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program
  • $10 billion to the EIDL Emergency Advance grants program
  • $75 billion to hospitals
  • $25 billion for testing, split between the states and federal government

The Small Business Administration is expected to start processing the next round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under the CARES Act, as soon as Monday, April 27.

It is anticipated that the second round of funding will run out quickly and it is essential that applicants connect with a financial institution able to process their PPP loan immediately.  RI Commerce Corporation is working with nonprofits and small businesses without banking relationships and those whose banks are not able to process their applications. Please encourage your grantees to contact Commerce at ppp@commerceri.gov.  

In Rhode Island, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is committing $10 million for loans to small businesses and nonprofits through a partnership with Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF), the largest non-profit, non-bank SBA 7(a) lender in the country.

Commerce RI is available to help match nonprofits who do not have relationships with financial institutions with lenders who will be able to process their PPP applications.  Commerce info sheet, with program details and list of documents needed.

Senators Reed and Whitehouse Discuss Latest COVID-19 Relief Bill with Providence Chamber

Representatives Cicilline and Langevin Discuss Latest COVID-19 Relief Bill with Providence Chamber

Boston Federal Reserve Bank PPP resource web page

Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation program information and loan applications in 19 languages

Humanities Grants Available for Cultural Organizations

The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities will be distributing supplemental funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the federal CARES Act. The grants will provide general operating support, and there will be a small pool for project grants connected to the innovation and engagement so many cultural organizations have shown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
 
Nationally, the NEH has also established a grant program for cultural organizations to support at-risk humanities positions and projects that have been impacted by the coronavirus.
 
Information about the opportunities is linked below. Please circulate as appropriate. This pool of funds is likely to be expended very quickly. The first Humanities Council deadlines are May 1 and May 15.
 
From the Humanities Council:
General Operating Support COVID-19 Relief Grants – Nonprofit Humanities Organizations
Project Grants – Public Humanities in the Age of Social Distancing
Info here
 
From the National Endowment for the Humanities:
NEH CARES: Cultural Organizations
Info here

Hasbro Partners with Manufacturer to Produce Facemasks

GCRI member Hasbro Inc. has partnered with a local games manufacturer, Cartamundi, to produce 50,000 face shields per week.  The masks will be donated to hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work together with our partners at Cartamundi to produce much-needed personal protective equipment, to directly assist the critical needs of front-line medical workers in our community,” said John Frascotti, president and chief operating officer of Hasbro. “Throughout this challenging time, Hasbro is committed to using our brands, our resources and our expertise to help make a difference.”

LISC Partners with Citizens Bank to Launch Grant Program for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Rhode Island and Citizens Bank introduced a Small Business Recovery Grant Program aimed at small businesses in Rhode Island that have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

The grants for amounts up to $7,500 will help hard-hit businesses limit layoffs and continue to provide employee benefits, including health insurance, and mitigate the economic instability currently faced by so many of community businesses.

In the past two weeks, several additional small grant or loan programs have been offered to the small business community in Rhode Island, and each time the funds are depleted very quickly, underscoring the acute needs of that segment of the economy. According to the Small Business Association, in Rhode Island nearly 53% of all private sector employees work in a small business setting.

Small businesses represent an important economic engine in Rhode Island, and is particularly critical as a way to provide economic stability for many minority- and immigrant families. With the closing of many non-essential businesses, much of that economic activity has come to a grinding halt, while the bills still pile up. The CARES Act will provide Small Business Administration loans, a Paycheck Protection Program and other economic relief, many of our smaller and more vulnerable businesses will not be able to access federal programs, or will be unable to qualify for or support the repayment of loans. Grants, as well as robust technical assistance, will be critical to the survival of these businesses.

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