Our country has faced many difficult situations over the years but nothing quite like the coronavirus pandemic.
As social distancing and quarantine became the new normal, and businesses shut their doors and laid-off workers, we heard more and more from families who never expected to be in this position, struggling to put food on the table for their kids, to pay their bills or keep a roof over their heads.
Even before the pandemic, 1 in 3 families in our region was unable to pay for basic needs. Many of the inequities communities of color and low-income communities already experience – including lack of access to livable wages, stable housing, affordable childcare and healthcare – only intensified in the wake of COVID-19.
We knew we had to act.
Mobilizing a Community Safety Net
For 100 years, your local United Way has been the place where our region joins together to help one another. No matter the crisis, we have always remained steadfast to our commitment to LIVE UNITED and take care of our community.
With vetted nonprofit partners across our four counties (Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington Counties, OR and Clark County, WA), we knew we could quickly respond to the surge in demand for social services and support our partners on the ground who were having to adjust their own operations. Similar to other sectors, nonprofit organizations have had to incorporate social distancing precautions and, at times, change how they deliver services. Many of our community-based partners do not necessarily have the capacity to make adjustments and focus on fundraising during a crisis.
Given our commitment to racial equity in our mission and work, and our longstanding partnerships with culturally-specific as well as culturally-responsive organizations, we were confident that our relief funds would be able to reach the families and communities being hit the hardest by COVID-19.
With your generous support, through our Safety Net Fund we allocated $225,000 towards immediate community relief efforts to eleven nonprofit partners:
- Clackamas Service Center
- Community Action of Washington County
- Council for the Homeless
- Home Forward
- Immigrant Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)
- Labor's Community Services Agency
- Latino Network
- Metropolitan Family Service
- Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA)
- NW Housing Alternatives
- Self Enhancement Inc.
Impact on the Ground
Thanks to you, families were able to access critical services during this time of unprecedented need, including short-term housing assistance, utilities assistance and access to food.
Your generosity kept Kinseny, a single mom from the Pacific Islands, and her two children stably housed. With schools closed because of COVID-19, Kinseny had to quit her job to stay home and care for her young kids. She was behind on her rent and her family was at risk of becoming homeless. With United Way’s Safety Net funds, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) was able to provide her with short-term rental assistance while she found additional childcare resources.
Your donations helped families in the hospitality industry continue to put food on the table. “Working families in the hotel and restaurant industry have been devastated,” says Jennifer Graham, Lead Organizer and Vice President for Local 8, Hospitality Union of the Northwest. “Housekeepers, food preparers, hospitality service workers have all been laid off with no notice. About 90% are out of work with little hope of a quick recovery.”
Those laid off included English second-language workers who were experiencing the most difficulties in filing their unemployment claims. With United Way’s Safety Net funding, Labor Community Service Agency (LCSA) was able to send out $13,000 in food cards to keep these and other workers, as well as their families, afloat until their unemployment benefits kicked in.
“I was beyond thankful. I still can’t believe it,” says Emilee, a recipient of services through LCSA’s partnership with United Way. “This made such an impact on me…that someone that I didn’t know was so willing to help during a time like this.”
The Path Ahead
It is clear that the pandemic is not going anywhere anytime soon. We're only beginning to understand the long-term economic impacts COVID-19 will have on our region, the country and the world. It has also become obvious that there is no going back to "normal," especially when what we had before was failing our families and kids of color.
We at United Way have already started to shift from immediate relief to looking at how we can collaborate with community members, nonprofits, businesses and government agencies to focus on the months, as well as years, ahead and reimagine our region's future. The remaining funds raised will go toward long-term recovery efforts.
We are all in this together - and together we'll build not only a path toward resiliency but a more equitable region where all families have the resources and opportunities to thrive.