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Positively Cincinnati: COVID-19 Regional Response Fund to help people hurt financially by pandemic

'We're moving quickly'
Posted: 4:42 PM, Mar 18, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-19 09:04:22-04
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CINCINNATI — Families across the Tri-State are worried about how the COVID-19 pandemic could jeopardize both their physical and financial health.

So as government leaders take steps to try to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, Greater Cincinnati philanthropic organizations are coming forward to help alleviate the economic damage.

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and United Way of Greater Cincinnati have teamed up with other Tri-State funders to launch the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.

Their goal is to raise $5 million that can be allocated quickly to local nonprofits on the front lines of helping families with immediate needs related to:

  • Food insecurity
  • Housing and shelter
  • Medical needs
  • Child care and elder care

“We know that people found out on Sunday who work in restaurants that they might not have enough money to buy groceries,” said United Way CEO Moira Weir. “We’re making sure we’re hitting people as quickly as we can, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
United Way sent close to $600,000 to member organizations Tuesday night to ensure those nonprofits had the money they needed to serve the community, she said.

“We heard from Meals on Wheels, ‘You saved lives last night because we had money to feed families,’” Weir said.

The COVID-19 Regional Response Fund is deploying a total of $700,000 in its first wave, said Greater Cincinnati Foundation CEO Ellen Katz.

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Greater Cincinnati Foundation CEO Ellen Katz, left, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati CEO Moira Weir.

“It’s important for us that the community and that those who want to contribute understand that we’re moving, and we’re moving quickly with an incredible sense of urgency,” Katz said.

Some of the region’s largest charitable organizations have contributed to the fund, she said. The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and United Way each kicked in $500,000. Procter & Gamble and bi3, Bethesda Inc.’s grant-making initiative, each contributed $500,000 to the fund, too.

Fifth Third Foundation and The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation each contributed $250,000, Katz said. The Scripps Howard Foundation, which is the corporate foundation of WCPO’s parent company, contributed $100,000.

“I just feel grateful to be part of a community that honestly are pounding our doors down saying how can we help and what can we do,” Katz said. “United Way and GCF, we just came together on Monday. Literally within 24 hours we had resources to dispense.”

The $5 million goal is an initial fundraising target, and Weir acknowledged it might require more than that to meet the community’s needs.

“The needs are going to be great and then certainly seeing what is happening through the federal and state governments – how do we wrap around whatever the public supports are and make sure we can cover that gap,” she said. “I think the needs of the community are really going to drive what that is.”

The first wave of funding has gone to food banks, homeless shelter operators, child-care providers and senior services agencies.

As the fund grows, organizers said they plan to provide “direct support” to people suffering from lost wages and, eventually, also assist with longer-term recovery efforts.

“We are asking our community – each and every one of us – to come together to support the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund,” David Taylor, P&G’s chairman and CEO, said in a news release. “Our community has a track record of exceptional generosity. In moments like this, our unity is our strength.”

To contribute to the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, go to www.gcfdn.org/COVID-19, text RAPID to 91999 or call (513) 241-2880. WCPO 9 is the fund's media sponsor.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.