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Cal Wellness Commits $4 Million to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic

Grants support immediate response efforts to prevent spread of the disease, recovery from the effects of the public health crises, and the long-term resilience of nonprofits across California as the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. 

March 25, 2020—The California Wellness Foundation today announced nearly $3 million in grants to combat the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Grants support the most vulnerable communities and people in our state: frontline health workers, economically disadvantaged people, immigrants, seniors, and Asian Americans experiencing race-based harassment and assaults, among others. Core support grants are also given to some current grantee partners who are experiencing significant disruptions to their work. In the next week, Cal Wellness will also commit another $1 million to community clinics and the associations that advocate for them.

“Even before this crisis, as a public health foundation, we focused our efforts on communities that are too often left behind. Where people live, their race and their immigration status has a direct influence on their health and wellness. This crisis will disproportionately affect folks who are already suffering as a result of deep inequities in our society,” said Judy Belk, president and CEO of Cal Wellness. “In addition, we will continue to support community organizing and advocacy so that folks can speak up and hold government accountable for enhancing the health and wellness of their communities. We are committed to do everything we can, both short- and long term, to support vulnerable communities’ needs during this pandemic.”

Cal Wellness immediate response grants to community foundations and United Ways across California will provide frontline health workers with proper protective gear, clinics with test kits, and rapid financial assistance to individuals and families experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Grants will also support nonprofits that are providing essential health and safety services and enable ethnic media to provide timely and accurate information in languages other than English.

Addressing Urgent Needs Through Immediate Response Grants

To meet the most urgent needs of our communities, Cal Wellness awarded three types of immediate response grants:

  • Grants to community foundations and United Ways: These foundations and organizations are central to their local communities and they are best positioned to make strategic grants during this time of health and economic crises. For example, grants to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, California Community Foundation, and Sierra Health Foundation will provide health workers with the protective equipment they need and community health centers with testing kits. They’ll also provide financial, healthcare and food services for those who are quarantined, for housebound seniors, for people who are houseless and for food pantries. In order to reach all regions and people across California, we’ve partnered with United Ways. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles will provide relief funding to vulnerable communities, and the United Way of the Inland Valleys 2-1-1 toll free public health support line will enable United Way to hire 2-1-1 operators to assist with the increased volume of calls and to hire on-call nurses to help alleviate fears and answer questions related to COVID-19.
  • Grants to organizations providing essential services and advocacy: A grant to support a partnership between San Francisco State, Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action will be used to counter the COVID-19 related, race-based harassment and attacks on our AAPI communities. Grants to journalism organizations and reporting projects such as  Cal Matters and Capital & Main will enable access to timely and accurate information about COVID-19 for all Californians, including those whose primary language is other than English. A grant to the California Association of Nonprofits will continue to support education and advocacy efforts about the vital role of nonprofit organizations to the economy and recovery efforts in this period of crisis.
  • $730,000 in core support grants to select small- and mid-size grantees: Some of Cal Wellness’ small- and mid-size grantee partners and clinics are experiencing significant disruptions to their work due to the nature of this crisis. For example, staff may now be working remotely and using remote technology. Cal Wellness identified grantees in greatest need and gave them, on average, a $10,000 grant. The grantees can use the funds in whichever way they need to support their work right away, such as to buy clinical supplies, buy laptops, set up cloud databases, and so on.

Changing Grantmaking Systems to Support Current Grantees

This crisis is disrupting everything in our lives—how we work, how we raise our families, and all the systems that we are part of. It is affecting how nonprofits provide services, how our public health system works, and how funders’ grantmaking systems work to support their grantees.

As a funder, Cal Wellness is rising to the challenge of this unprecedented crisis by not only awarding $3 million in rapid response grants, but also making important and necessary changes to our grantmaking systems. To relieve some of the extraordinary pressures our grantee partners are feeling, we are:

  • Extending grant periods to allow grantees more time to meet their grant objectives.
  • Making funding even more flexible by removing restrictions when needed.
  • Putting a moratorium on all grant reports.
  • Ensuring that grants that have been approved for upcoming conferences and events remain in place, whether the event ultimately occurs or not.

“We’ve always been a champion for multiyear grantmaking, core-support, flexible grants and trusting our grantee partners to do the work they said they would do. During this crisis, we’re also taking steps to make sure that our grantmaking process is as flexible as our grantmaking," said Fatima Angeles, Vice President of Programs. “We’re heartened to see peer funders easing their grantmaking processes as well. It’s critical that funders come together in listening and responding to communities in ways that demonstrate trust and build their capacity to meet this unprecedented challenge.”

Download the complete list of grants.

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