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Announcing $11.3 Million for COVID-19 Relief & Racial Justice

The latest round of grants awarded between April and July 2020 supports communities in California to address the twin crises of COVID-19 and systemic racism.

(August 24, 2020)—The California Wellness Foundation today announced $11.3 million in grants and Program-Related Investments (PRIs) to advance health equity in California during the COVID-19 pandemic, address racial disparities in pandemic response, and invest in racial justice for communities of color. Of the total amount, $5.3 million was for immediate response grants to support communities disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus pandemic: people of color and low-income, immigrant, undocumented and homeless people. An additional $4 million in grants fortify Cal Wellness’ long-term strategy of increasing access to health care, quality education, good jobs, and safe neighborhoods. PRIs totaling $2 million will provide loans to businesses and nonprofits run by people of color in rural and less affluent communities.

“The pandemic has both highlighted and intensified the injustices and racial disparities embedded in all of our systems —from health care and employment to finance and policing,” said Judy Belk, Cal Wellness president and CEO. “We’re using every tool we have — our grantmaking dollars, our voice and our investments—to sustain organizations that are saving lives and livelihoods in the short term and transforming our society in the long term.”

Grants Addressing Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on People of Color

This new round of funding totaling $5.3 million provides continued relief to community partners, protects access to health care and prioritizes well-being in communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Twenty-five grants totaling almost $1 million support community health centers, community clinics and regional clinic consortia, which are facing major funding challenges. Community health centers and community clinics provide health care to the most vulnerable populations in California: people of color, poor, undocumented, and the uninsured. Every Regional Association of Clinics across the state received $50,000 to boost their capacity to serve and advocate on behalf of clinics. The California Primary Care Association received a $250,000 investment to meet the real-time, urgent needs of community clinics across the state.

Seven grants totaling $440,000 support organizations addressing COVID-19-related concerns exclusively within communities of color. Grantees like the California Black Women’s Health Project and the Latino Community Foundation respond to the unique needs and circumstances of Black and Latinx people impacted by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has turned the world upside down and created a complex terrain that no-one knows for sure how to navigate,” said Fatima Angeles, vice president of programs.  “But there’s one thing we know. Those who are most affected by a crisis must be leaders in addressing that crisis. More than 70 percent of our COVID-19 grants were made to organizations led by people of color while our program-related investments prioritized our rural, marginalized and low-wealth communities of color.  We remain committed to continuing to focus on how Cal Wellness can best support our community partners and the people of California during this unpredictable environment.”

Grants Supporting the Health Care Safety Net and Health Equity in California

In addition to its immediate response grants, Cal Wellness is forging ahead with its mission-critical grantmaking by awarding $4 million in grants as part of its Advancing Wellness program that aims to increases access to health care, quality education, good jobs, healthy environments and safe neighborhoods.

A $450,000 grant to Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science is a long-term investment in a strong health care safety net. This grant will be used to build a new generation of diverse health care workers by enabling underrepresented minority students to pursue careers in health professions. After graduation, many of these students will go on to practice in underserved areas and in community health centers.

A $425,000 grant to Advance Peace will support community-led interventions to prevent violence. As an alternative to increasing policing in urban neighborhoods in cities like Stockton, Sacramento and Fresno, Advance Peace invests in community building as a strategy to reduce and prevent gun violence. Cal Wellness believes that investing in the development, health, and wellness of people at the center of the gun violence crisis is one of the most important strategies for building safer communities.

Investments Support Small Businesses and Build Wealth in Communities of Color

“Small businesses are engines of wealth for their communities. People of color, especially Black people, have historically been denied access to business loans, preventing them from growing their businesses and building wealth in their communities,” said Rochelle Witharana, chief financial officer. “Even today, Black people are twice as likely to get rejected for a business loan and more likely to be charged higher interest rates. Our investments aim to level the playing field during this uncertain time.”

Cal Wellness is committed to leveraging more of its endowment to improve the lives of Californians. To that end, the foundation supplements its grantmaking with PRIs. The latest round of PRIs totaling $3 million will provide financial support and capital to underserved communities of color across California. For example, an investment of $1 million in the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), a community development financial institution, will provide PPP loans to underserved rural borrowers who do not have strong relationships with traditional banking institutions.

See the complete list of grants.

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