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Rapid Response of CT Philanthropy Amidst COVID-19

June 10, 2020

by Elaine Mintz,
VP of Operations, Fairfield County's Community Foundation
Board Chair, Connecticut Council of Philanthropy


Karla Fortunato
President, Connecticut Council for Philanthropy

Stay home, stay safe. We have heard this throughout the entirety of the Covid-19 crisis. Unfortunately, for many people in CT staying home may not be an option, nor does it necessarily mean that they can stay safe. Elaine MintzWhether the threat is a crowded living situation, violence or instability, or homelessness, Covid-19 has intensified preexisting challenges for thousands of individuals. These threats -- so visible now more than ever – reflect deep racial, class, and gender inequities that will require more than just a 3-year general operating grant to address. While Connecticut’s philanthropic community has responded quickly to address the immediate needs of the Covid-19 crisis, it is clear that supporting long-term recovery and these underlying inequities is even more crucial.

Although philanthropy has been historically criticized for its slow-paced bureaucratic process, Connecticut funders have responded nimbly to this current health crisis since its onset. In the first weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak, over 30 grant-makers in Connecticut set up special funds to deploy dollars quickly to address the most pressing needs of our community.

Meanwhile, some funders took additional steps as well by reducing or eliminating reporting requirements, providing more general operating grants, and shortening applications to reduce the administrative burden on nonprofits. For example, Community Foundations with deep ties to the towns and cities they serve moved over $20 million to primarily support frontline organizations and people impacted by the crisis. Funding for food, financial support, rental assistance, PPE, and health and mental health services were top priorities of this initial Karla Fortunatoround of funding. At the CT Council for Philanthropy (CCP), we have been humbled not only by the generosity of donors, but also by the speed and intentionality with which these dollars have been deployed.

In the housing arena, funding has gone to keeping staff and clients safe by preventing the spread of the virus and working to keep people in their homes. A prime example is that of Fairfield County Community Foundation, whose first Covid-19 Resiliency Fund grant was directed to purchase emergency motel rooms for individuals experiencing homelessness, thus allowing social distancing protocols to be implemented at homeless shelters. Working in partnership with Opening Doors Fairfield County, this $50K grant was quickly deployed to organizations through a critical collective impact initiative. Other early resources provided by funders included critical safety supports such as purchasing PPE and cleaning supplies so that clients, staff, and volunteers in shelters could be better protected. Still others worked to ensure people could remain in their homes by supporting financial assistance to individuals impacted by the crisis so they could pay their rent, child care, or utility bills.

But the work is not yet done. Now, many funders are turning their attention to the future and thinking about supporting the long-term recovery ahead. The Covid-19 crisis is demanding that the state rethink and rebuild some of its critical systems such as health and housing. Rapid solutions are needed to prevent mass evictions and foreclosures as Governor Lamont’s protections for renters and homeowners sunset this summer, creating an opportunity for us all to address longstanding inequities and rebuild our systems in a more just and equitable way. Philanthropy can and will leverage its financial and social capital to inform, influence, and invest in these new systems. At CCP, we have already begun exploring these kinds of opportunities and will continue to bring funders, experts, and partners together to advance this essential work.

We know that working together and coordinating philanthropy’s response will lead to greater impact, and we must strive to build a more equitable Connecticut post Covid-19.