April 22, 2020

Marguerite Casey Foundation Announces $3.5 Million in COVID-19 Grant Funding to Tackle Racial Disparities Resulting from Pandemic

The Foundation’s funding supports nonprofits including Color of Change and Mijente to expedite immediate decarceration in jails and immigrant detention centers; helps launch The COVID Racial Tracking Project

Marguerite Casey Foundation, the philanthropic foundation nurturing the national movement of low-income families advocating on their own behalf for change, has just awarded a total of $3.5 million in grant funding directly related to timely needs created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is exposing racial disparities like few other events in recent U.S. history with initial data showing that COVID-19 is infecting and killing Black people at a far higher rate than any other group. This funding is going directly to nonprofit organizations including Color of Change, Mijente, The Antiracist Research & Policy Center, The Workers Lab, and others who are on the frontlines of addressing structural racism in real time as additional immediate needs are exposed.

The United States is facing an unprecedented number of challenges due to this global pandemic, and the racial demographics of who is being tested, infected, hospitalized and dying are still not as clear as they should be, but what is known is sobering. In Chicago, for example, Black people represent 57 percent of all COVID-19 deaths – more than three times higher than any other racial demographic – even though they are only 30 percent of the city’s population. Across the country, more than 2.3 million people – the majority of them people of color – remain caught in the web of mass incarceration and detention – as they face one of the pandemic’s greatest threats. Marguerite Casey Foundation’s funding aims to ensure that leading racial justice organizations have the resources they need in order to make sure all of our families, especially the most vulnerable among us, are protected during this pandemic.

Critical projects receiving this immediate funding include:

  • A $600,000 grant to Color of Change and Mijente to immediately advocate for the widespread release of prisoners and immigration detainees stuck at detention centers at the U.S. border; to engage millions to demand action around these needs; to hold institutions and elected officials accountable for making sure all families are protected during this pandemic; and to invest in the grassroots groups organizing and advocating for necessary support for those who will be released. This pandemic, like mass incarceration and overt criminalization, is disproportionately hitting Black and Latinx communities. Color of Change, led by the nonprofit’s President Rashad Robinson, is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, bringing accountability to systems and decisions that impact Black people’s lives. They work locally and nationally to address the harm of the U.S. criminal justice system on Black communities. Mijente, led by Co-Founder Marisa Franco, is a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx movement building that challenges systems of immigrant criminalization and detention. Mijente is already working for widespread changes in criminal prosecution of migrants and calling for an intersectional analysis to guide local and federal responses to the pandemic.
  • A $300,000 grant to The Antiracist Research & Policy Center to help launch The COVID Racial Tracking Project, which will collect, publish, and analyze the most complete set of racial data available on COVID-19 in the U.S. The project, led by Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center, aims to begin filling the gaping holes in racial data by the end of April. This data challenge includes and also extends beyond Black communities as immigrant families, low-wage workers, people with disabilities and other communities are all potentially more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population. Collecting and analyzing comprehensive data on these disparities, including COVID-19, are critical steps in addressing structural racism in America’s health care systems.
  • A $300,000 grant to The Workers Lab as seed funding to launch a national emergency direct cash grant program, The Workers Fund: COVID-19 Rapid Response, to help gig workers and low-earning contractors who have been impacted by the coronavirus-fueled financial crisis. A majority of these workers were already in minimum wage jobs and at a disadvantage prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has now exacerbated the problem leaving these workers and their families in need of immediate cash to be able to provide for basic needs, from groceries to essential goods.

“This pandemic is exposing racial disparities the likes of which we have never before seen,” said Luz VegaMarquis, CEO & President of Marguerite Casey Foundation. “We urgently need to understand why and to provide relief where it is most needed. Philanthropy can, and must, play a leading role in this effort.”

In just the past few weeks since the outset of the pandemic, Marguerite Casey Foundation has provided funding to more than 111 nonprofits around the country. Low-income families and communities of color continue to experience distinct and timely day-to-day needs including but not limited to groceries and food supply, low-interest loans, ride-share passes, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), mental health counseling for parents and families, sanitation stations for those experiencing homelessness, and a safe place to come together virtually to express their fears and concerns. Additional funding is being distributed to meet the changing needs of families and staff for nonprofits and grassroots organizations in the American South, Southwest, Midwest, and West including providing legal assistance for tenant/landlord conflicts, changing a rapid response hotline to serve as intake and referral for individuals with questions/concerns related to COVID-19, and even providing space for individuals that have nowhere to quarantine.

“Recently, members of Congress introduced legislation that would require the federal government to post daily updates showing coronavirus testing, treatment and fatality data disaggregated by race, socioeconomic status, and other demographics,” said Dr. Carmen Rojas, who will become Marguerite Casey Foundation’s President & CEO in June upon Vega-Marquis’ retirement. “But government responses can move slowly, if at all, so we along with all other major funders must get dollars quickly to those at greatest risk, while also using our platforms to demand things like the widespread release of prisoners and immigrant detainees, fair and equal data collection and analysis, and financial support for low-income workers who have lost their jobs and for families who are desperately hurting right now.”

While grassroots groups led by people of color continue to be under-resourced by traditional philanthropy, they continue to be the focus of Marguerite Casey Foundation’s rapid response grantmaking as these organizations are responding quickly and creatively to the needs of families across the United States.

For more information and resources from Marguerite Casey Foundation, please visit https://caseygrants.org/grantee-resources-coronavirus-covid-19/.

Press Contact:


About Marguerite Casey Foundation Marguerite Casey Foundation nurtures a national movement of low-income families advocating on their own behalf for change. We invest in grassroots activism that builds the power and voice of families living in poverty to create their own solutions for a more just and equitable society for all. Connect with Marguerite Foundation on Twitter and Facebook

Latest Posts

Back to Recent News