Multimillion-dollar emergency response fund would support vulnerable residents amid virus outbreak

Editor’s note: This article was initially published by Crain’s Detroit Business.

Crain’s Detroit Business

United Way for Southeastern Michigan, working with local foundations and corporations, is pulling together a multimillion-dollar fund that will support vulnerable populations and the nonprofits serving them amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The fund, still in development, will seek to address a growing list of needs, including food security, child care and Internet connectivity during the state-mandated school closures, and homebound seniors.

It will also support nonprofits that provide services and are now at operating in a cycle of disruption, said United Way President and CEO Darienne Driver Hudson.

Though it’s been just days since the virus emerged in Michigan, those needs are already emerging through conversations with nonprofits, communities and elected officials, she said. “We’re going to galvanize the community … to make sure that we carry our citizens through this pandemic.”

Forty-four percent of households in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties were struggling to meet basic needs even before the coronavirus outbreak, per the “ALICE” or Asset Limited, Income Contrained, Employed report released by the Michigan Association of United Ways.

“We know this (outbreak) is going to significantly expand need,” said Chris Perry, chief development and marketing officer for United Way.

“Our desire is to raise millions, knowing the need in our community is going to increase as the virus expands.”

In tandem with developing the community response fund, United Way is creating a landing page on its website to provide health information on coronavirus and referrals to emergency providers.

“The same questions you’d ask through 211 will be on this landing page,” Perry said.

In developing the fund, United Way is benchmarking similar efforts that have emerged around the country in places like Seattle, New York and southern California, he said.

But it’s adapting those models and “doing our due diligence to make sure that the funds we invest meet the needs of our community,” Perry said.