COVID-19 Response

Our COVID-19 Response

Vulnerable individuals and families in our region were dealt blow after blow as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded in early 2020. In response, United Way re-deployed staff, connected with local nonprofits, and brought together municipal leaders, media, corporate and philanthropic partners. We launched a COVID-19 Family Support Fund on March 14th and began to distribute flexible financial assistance to impacted households within one week.

United Way’s Mass 2-1-1 and 2-1-1 NH emerged as critical lifelines during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In Massachusetts, 2-1-1 fielded over 224,000 calls for assistance – an average of 615 calls per day – more than double the number of calls for the same time the year before. 45% of requests were for Covid-19 assistance. 2-1-1 provides telephone and web information referral services for residents statewide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Trained 2-1-1 Information and Referral Specialists connect callers to thousands of human service organizations and resources.

“People are almost in a state of panic over losing the roof over their head which is a terrible feeling. So the majority of the callers now are looking for how to stay in their home. How can I pay my rent, I have a 14-day notice, how can I pay my mortgage? One of the fundamental changes we have seen through the pandemic is callers calling from every single community across the state, almost every line of profession, all ages.”  Katherine Provost, Mass 2-1-1 Call Specialist


While the pandemic left no one untouched by loss and disruption, it also put a spotlight on alarming disparities, demanding an equity-forward response. United Way used a framework to focus fund distribution in communities with the highest social vulnerability, that is, those with the most school-age children, renters, non-white and non-English speaking residents. Additionally, United Way established localized relief funds in partnership with elected leaders in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lynn, Everett, Revere, and Boston neighborhoods of Mattapan, Dorchester and Hyde Park, to name a few working with United Way specifically to target support to residents not likely to qualify for public sources of support.

United Way COVID Relief Funds

Raised and Distributed 

People Helped by the COVID-19 Funds

Corporate and Foundation Donors

Nonprofit Partners Supported


Thanks to the generosity of over 8,000 donors as well as hundreds of corporate and foundation partners, United Way distributed more than $6 million to more than 170 organizations in the community from our COVID-19 Family Support Fund in the first three months of the crisis. We have provided:

  • $1.5M to food pantries, shelters, and other meal distribution programs, specifically for the expanded purchase of food. This money has provided food and supplies like diapers to tens of thousands of people.
  • $1M specifically to organizations supporting vulnerable tenants
  • $3.6M in targeted assistance to families who lost wages during the shutdown, particularly immigrant families and others not able to access unemployment insurance or stimulus funding.