This blog post was written by Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation, and Carmen Rojas, PhD, the incoming president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation. Rojas is founder of The Workers Lab.
The COVID-19 outbreak poses an unprecedented threat to our nation’s low-income families. Prior to the announcement that we were witnessing the emergence of a global pandemic, many of our families were already living precarious economic lives, with nearly 50 percent of workers in the U.S. earning less than $19,000 a year. The rise and mismanagement of this crisis threaten to push millions of people out of work and expose families to greater economic insecurity.
This threat is also being borne by the organizations and leaders that serve and support our families and communities. Over the last week, we have heard countless stories from those on the frontlines experiencing the threat of financial insecurity, the challenge of a shifting workplace terrain, and, for many, the threat of exposure to the virus while providing health services alongside organizing efforts.
Marguerite Casey Foundation moved quickly to ensure that our grant recipients have the resources they need in this moment. These organizations and the families they serve are predicted to be the hardest hit. We are responding by:
Granting Support to Organizations: The pandemic transformed overnight how many of us work, throwing Foundation grantees and staff into the unfamiliar and isolated territory of working from home. The Foundation will provide resources to help grantees make this transition, prioritizing funding for grassroots organizations that are actively responding to the crisis. This support is being reviewed and approved daily. In three days, we approved 56 grants and plan to grant nearly $3 million in supplemental support to organizations. Grantee organizations are why the Foundation exists, and we are committed to working with them to create safe and accessible workplaces in this time.
Moving Money to People: This outbreak is wreaking havoc in the lives of poor families and individual workers who are unlikely to receive support from the federal government. In response, Marguerite Casey Foundation has seeded an emergency income relief fund to help families buy basics – groceries and supplies – necessary to navigate this crisis. Initially, the fund will focus on gig and undocumented workers. The Workers Lab, a Foundation grantee, has raised over $1 million and has started distributing money through its website.
Streamlining Resources and Information: Like you, our email inboxes have been inundated with messages about resources and tools to weather this storm, from funding opportunities to reduced prices for digital platforms. We know information is key, and we have developed a page on our website that will be updated each week with funding opportunities, workplace tools, lessons in care and opportunities for action during this crisis.
Protecting our Partners Online: We will offer all of our grant recipients online digital security training on a weekly basis to make sure that the shift from office to home does not expose the most vulnerable among us to surveillance. This is a public health crisis, but it’s also a crisis of our democracy and institutions. We all need to stay vigilant and be prepared. We want to make sure our grant recipients are safe navigating this new terrain.
Planning for the Future: A historic economic depression looms on the horizon. As we know from the financial collapse of 2008, when shifts in the market occur, our organizations and families suffer the most from decreased funding and increased financial insecurity. Over the course of the next quarter, we will offer our grant recipients and partners resources to prepare for the coming shifts, including financial scenario planning.
These supports are all offered in the context of the Foundation’s long-standing commitment to multiyear general operating support.
Many low-income families and grantees are on the frontlines responding to this pandemic, while they’re also experiencing its heaviest fallout. Marguerite Casey Foundation stands with them. We will respond to this crisis and prepare for our future together.