Puget Sound Philanthropies Funding Against COVID-19
Puget Sound Philanthropies Funding Against COVID-19

A coalition of philanthropy, government, and business partners in Seattle, Wash., have joined together to create a COVID-19 Response Fund that will rapidly deploy resources to community-based organizations at the front lines of the region’s coronavirus outbreak. The Fund is designed to complement the work of public health officials and expand local capacity to address the outbreak as effectively as possible.

The fund’s leaders expect to move an initial round of grants within the next few weeks, according to an announcement.

Data collected by Foundation Maps by Candid indicated $852.6 million in 180 grants have been designated for COVID-19 around the world as of yesterday.

King County in Washington State and home to the city of Seattle has been particularly hard hit. As of yesterday, officials reported 22 deaths in Washington State, many tied to two nursing homes. In nearby Kirkland, 31 residents have tested positive of 35 test results reported.

The area is also home to some of the nation’s largest employers, including Microsoft, Amazon, Weyerhaeuser, Starbucks and Costco.

Held by Seattle Foundation, the COVID-19 Response Fund will provide resources to organizations in the region working with communities that are disproportionally impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of this outbreak. One-time operating grants will fund organizations that have deep roots in community and strong experience working with residents without health insurance and/or access to sick days, people with limited English language proficiency, healthcare and gig economy workers, and communities of color, among others.

The first phase of rapid-response grants will address the economic impact of reduced and lost work due to the broader COVID-19 outbreak; the immediate needs of economically vulnerable populations caused by COVID-19 related closures; the increased demand for medical information and support; and, fear and confusion about the outbreak among the most vulnerable residents.

Seattle Foundation will administer grants from the fund in partnership with United Way of King County and in collaboration with King County’s Pandemic Community Advisory Group. Together they will proactively identify potential grant recipients, solicit guidance on potential recipients from community advisors, and recommend final awards. Funds will be released on a rolling basis as fundraising continues throughout the outbreak and recovery phases of the crisis, making it possible to move resources quickly and adapt to evolving needs in subsequent funding phases. Additional Fund partners include Philanthropy Northwest, Satterberg Foundation, and Social Venture Partners.

“COVID-19 represents a battle on two fronts — a public health crisis and a threat to the economic stability of so many in our region,” said Seattle Foundation President and CEO Tony Mestres. “While we are all dealing with the effects of this outbreak, some of our neighbors face disproportionate challenges around time off work, the cost of care, and reliable access to information. Through this Fund and thanks to the generous support of our partners, we want to make sure everyone in our community has the support they need, regardless of race, place, income, or identity.”

The COVID-19 Response Fund is “an important step in making sure we care for our most vulnerable neighbors during the outbreak. United Way knows that far too many people in King County are living just a missed paycheck away from hunger and homelessness,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., CEO of United Way of King County.

The resiliency of the community is being tested by the outbreak, said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “It’s on each of us to respond as best we can to slow the outbreak, and support one another,” said Constantine. “This effort, led by the Seattle Foundation and business and community leaders from across our region, will help support those whose livelihoods are undermined by this public health challenge.”

“As our community focuses on public health needs during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important that we also rally together to address the unmet economic needs developing around us,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “At Microsoft, our hope is that this new fund will help to strengthen the community’s safety net through this crisis, and we encourage others –including corporate, government and philanthropic sectors — to come together to help those who are most vulnerable.”