Six months after launching its Covid-19 Family Support Fund and targeting relief efforts in more than a dozen cities hard-hit by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic, United Way reports it has provided more than 300,000 households with financial assistance to help pay for food, housing, utilities and other basic needs.
Working with over 170 agency partners and dozens of municipal leaders on the front lines of their communities, United Way has raised and distributed more than $8 million in direct relief funding for families, as well as providing its ongoing funding to helping these nonprofits survive.
In addition to launching its Covid-19 Family Support Fund, United Way established relief funds in partnership with some of the hardest hit cities in Massachusetts: Chelsea, Brockton, Lawrence, Everett, Lynn, Randolph, Somerville and Haverhill, among others, to mobilize their residents and local nonprofits to reach the most vulnerable people.
“As Covid-19 shows no sign of easing in our country, it continues to cause loss of life, loss of jobs and loss of connections that so many people need to thrive,” said Bob Giannino, President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Empowering our communities to rebuild as stronger and more resilient will be a long-term effort that will take all of us, working together.”
For example, in Chelsea, the One Chelsea Fund team has to date helped more than 3,200 households and are working to serve an additional 1,200 households this month. In Lynn, more than 1,000 households received an average of $650 in financial assistance. When United Way mapped out the households that had received help, it found addresses in every neighborhood in Lynn had been impacted by lost income and received assistance. In Lawrence, United Way has helped 1,300 of the most vulnerable households who don’t qualify for any other help.
United Way remains focused on raising funds to meet the community need created by the ongoing crisis:
- Families are running out of savings and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 654,000 Massachusetts households reported either missing their July rent or mortgage payment or feared missing their August payment.
- Hundreds of thousands of students from low-income communities will begin the school year remotely without critical academic and social and emotional support.
- The economic and health impacts of Covid-19 have hit communities of color disproportionately harder than the rest of the Commonwealth.
- Nonprofits working to meet these needs are reeling. The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network reported in June that nonprofits already had $8.6 billion in lost revenue and more than half had reduced staff, while adapting programming to operate safely.
“It is critical that we continue to provide financial assistance to vulnerable populations if we want our communities to emerge stronger, more prepared for the future,” said Giannino. “Our ability to safely reopen our schools, businesses and public spaces will depend on our willingness to remain in solidarity with all members of our community. United Way has been responding to local needs and our region’s most pressing issues in partnership with our network of community-based organizations since our beginning. Covid-19 is a new challenge for all of us, but we are undaunted.”
Over the coming months, United Way will remain focused on generating resources for a focused, coordinated, and comprehensive response to empower communities to recover, re-imagine and rebuild:
- Early education: Vulnerable communities lack access to reliable, high-quality early education, which are core to supporting the healthy development of young children while giving parents flexibility to work and pursue career development. Covid-19 has put early education — already costly and underfunded — in a perilous situation. Funds raised by United Way will provide critical financial resources, business training and support to family child care providers and nonprofit early education centers to help them support working families.
- Out of school time: Schools are reopening remotely or with a hybrid remote/in person approach while parents are balancing supporting their children with work obligations and keeping their households afloat. Families need safe spaces and resources for children to learn and develop. The out-of-school time field stands ready to partner with the public school districts in their communities to support students and families. But these nonprofits are struggling to cover increased expenses, including program supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE) and learning materials, personnel costs, and additional space to maintain social distancing.
- Economic stability: Unemployment in Massachusetts has skyrocketed from 2.8% to more than 16% in just a few months, the highest rate in the nation. An estimated 120,000 households are at risk of eviction. United Way is providing critical financial assistance and joining others in the call for expanding and investing in creative housing solutions. Job training and other economic empowerment programs are pivoting to prepare displaced workers for the future.
- Racial Justice: Racial and economic inequities are more glaring than ever. United Way and its agency partners have seen how the economic and health impacts of COVID-19 have hit communities of color disproportionately harder than the rest of the Commonwealth. The underlying conditions that have caused these disparities – low-wage jobs, crowded housing, and more social determinants — have racial injustice and discrimination at their root. United Way is committed to focusing on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to produce greater results for impact in communities, mobilizing volunteers and community leaders and achieving internal organizational goals.
Every year, more than 3,000 companies stand with United Way, as does a network of more than 260 nonprofit organizations who are best positioned to address the needs of vulnerable children and families across our region. To learn more about United Way’s work to continue to re-imagine and rebuild our communities or to learn more about United Way’s targeted city funds, visit United Way’s COVID-19 Family Support Fund.