In what feels like the blink of an eye, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and life as we know it. From the loved ones we’ve lost and the strain on our hospitals and public health systems to the social distancing measures that have closed schools and businesses, halted gatherings, and changed how workplaces operate, the pandemic’s impacts are vast and unprecedented. The Pew Charitable Trusts recognizes the enormous human and financial toll that this is having on individuals, families, and organizations in the Philadelphia region—and understands that the virus and the resulting economic fallout will have both immediate and longer-term consequences. And the situation will disproportionately affect individuals and families who are already vulnerable.
Given the large number of low-income Philadelphians—with almost a quarter of the city’s residents living in poverty—the pandemic presents significant challenges for health and human services organizations, including those that serve isolated and frail elderly people, the homeless, and those with behavioral health issues. Arts and culture organizations that have played such an important role in Philadelphia’s revitalization for the past decade or more are also experiencing substantial hardships, and many have been forced to shutter their doors. In our conversations with grantees, we’ve admired the way so many have adjusted their programs and operations to continue to carry out their missions while keeping their staff members and volunteers safe.
Pew is committed to supporting the Philadelphia region, our grantees, and the communities they serve at this critical time. Toward that end, we want to share some steps that we are taking to assist Pew Fund for Health and Human Services grantees as well as cultural organizations and artists supported through The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage as we continue to assess how best to help our hometown navigate the implications of the pandemic.
First, we have just announced $6.8 million in grants to help 38 area nonprofit organizations assist some of the most vulnerable adults in our community, including those struggling with homelessness, mental health issues, and extended unemployment. The funding will help organizations address these residents’ critical needs, including those exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, we are helping all current grantees adapt, sustain, and in some cases expand their programs by offering them greater flexibility in the use of Pew funding, such as the ability to shift a portion or all of each grant from project to operating support so that resources can be directed to mission-aligned needs. We have also loosened restrictions on grant requirements, such as reporting deadlines and timelines for achieving milestones, to help grantees cope with substantial organizational changes and pressures.
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage will provide additional operating support to current grantee organizations and an additional $2,500 each to current Pew Fellows in the Arts, for a combined total of over $535,000, to help offset lost revenue.
The Pew Fund for Health and Human Services is also considering how additional funds can have the greatest impact. Over the next several months, we’ll share additional information on any new awards that the Pew Fund makes to help current grantees and other health and human services organizations in the Philadelphia area address the needs of especially vulnerable populations or respond to important service gaps during this critical time. Our goal with this support will be to help provide solutions to immediate and short-term challenges, as well as to the longer-term economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage also plans to announce new grants in the fall, including project grants with general operating support for organizations and unrestricted fellowships for artists, continuing the Center’s support for cultural vibrancy in the region at a critical time.
Finally, through Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative, we will help inform policymakers and other key stakeholders as they face tough decisions in managing new fiscal realities and work toward economic recovery. By drawing on our capacity for local research and data analysis, as well as our broader expertise at the state and national levels, we aim to help the city and the region develop thoughtful, data-driven solutions to vital issues.
We’ve all been sobered by the painful effects that COVID-19 has had on the Philadelphia area. At the same time, we’ve also witnessed the incredible strength, compassion, dedication, and resilience of local residents and nonprofits. And we’re sincerely grateful for the ongoing service and commitment of those in our region who continue to serve Philadelphians in need under very challenging circumstances.
We look forward to better days and wish everyone good health.
Frazierita Klasen is vice president at The Pew Charitable Trusts, leading the organization’s work in Philadelphia.
For more on Pew’s new grants assisting 38 health and human services nonprofits in the Philadelphia region, click here.
For more on how The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is assisting the arts and culture community, click here.
For more on the Philadelphia research and policy initiative’s work, including research on COVID-19-related issues affecting Philadelphia, click here.
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