The Pittsburgh region faced an unprecedented economic, health and human services challenges in the global public health pandemic brought on by the COVID-19 virus. In response, on March 16, 2020, local philanthropies partnered to create the Emergency Action Fund, which awarded operating grants on a rolling basis to emergency service providers and nonprofit organizations serving on the front lines of recovery.
The Fund stopped accepting grant applications on May 8, 2020, Foundation President and CEO Lisa Schroeder said donations will still be accepted for foundations, corporations and the public to give toward future phases of grantmaking. Read Aug. 4, 2020 news release.
We are grateful to the individuals, family foundations, corporations and civic institutions that have joined us as contributors. Major participants include the region’s four largest foundations and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, with seed funding of $1 million each provided by our Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Henry L. Hillman Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
As of July 2020, 313 total grants from the Fund were issued in two categories to nonprofits in Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland counties:
- Sixteen grants totaling $4 million are supporting public health and human services systems. This includes funding for temporary housing and food distribution; for staffing, deep cleaning and protective equipment for the Allegheny County Health Department; and to the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 2-1-1 call-in system. Also receiving funding in this category are six community-based health centers. Grant-making decisions were made by a committee of program officers and heads of the foundations group.
- An additional 297 grants totaling about $5 million were awarded to nonprofits, government agencies and community health care providers – the majority to assist the most vulnerable residents of the region whose lifelines to food, shelter, medicine and employment were at risk due to the pandemic. Grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 have been directed to nonprofits in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Beaver Counties whose operations support:
- Senior citizens services;
- Child care services;
- Health care needs and medical supplies;
- Food provision during the emergency;
- Shelter for the homeless, the elderly and those with underlying conditions;
- Assistance to vulnerable populations under stress from the outbreak.
THE GRANT-MAKING PROCESS
We at the Foundation are working with a range of nonprofits, government agencies, corporate foundations and businesses to prioritize emergency needs. Also, we are coordinating with our affiliate, The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, and the United Way, ensuring that Action Fund grants went to nonprofits providing essential human services in the three-county region. The United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline serves a 13-county area.
Based on a survey of 1,600 regional nonprofits conducted through the PA 2-1-1 Southwest system and staff interviews of nonprofit providers, the Foundation is working to identify urgent needs. Grants will be made on a rolling basis as fundraising continues throughout the outbreak to ensure that resources bring relief in real time. See grants that have been awarded.
The following is an update on the Foundation’s efforts in these areas:
- Working with grantees to adapt to new realities: We are working to adapt our grantmaking during this crisis. If your organization has received funding for events or convenings, please follow the latest advisories to ensure public health and safety. Contact our Program staff by email and phone if you have questions.
- Sharing public health information: We are in frequent contact with public health experts and strongly recommend that everyone refer to the Allegheny County Health Department’s website for up-to-date information on the virus’s presence in our region and how to respond to it.
- Referring individuals and families in need to the 2-1-1 Hotline: If you or a loved one are in need of direct services, such as food, shelter or transportation, please contact the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania's PA 2-1-1 Southwest by dialing 2-1-1, texting their zip code to 898-211, or visiting pa211sw.org.