Op-Ed: Helping Community Organizations as we respond to the coronavirus COVID-19

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Non-profit agencies weigh in on COVID-19

As the Coronavirus sweeps across our community, all of us are striving to respond in a considered, calm and compassionate way. We mourn the loss of those that have died as the result of the disease, and our hearts go out to their families and loved ones. Just as our communities were enriched by each of those singular lives, our communities are diminished by their deaths.

Taking care of ourselves, our neighbors and our loved ones has become our top priority and hand washing, social distancing, staying informed, self-isolating and self-quarantining are concrete steps we can take to keep each other healthy.

On March 11th Governor Inslee took the unprecedented step of banning events of more than 250 people, noting that “One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”

As nonprofit organization leaders, our day-to-day work year-round is committed to the health and wellbeing of our community and we wholeheartedly support the Governor’s directive. Slowing the growth in the number of Coronavirus cases is critical.

The Governor also noted that we all have a role to play in responding to this public health emergency, that we are all called upon to lead, and we couldn’t agree more. Our organizations, like you, are on the frontline of our community response to this disease, and our services are needed now more than ever. For instance:

  • The economic impact of the virus has meant that more of our neighbors need help with the basics of life: food, clothing and shelter. We are finding creative ways to meet these needs, including grocery gift cards when our food pantries are unable to stay open, additional cleaning for our shelters, and special protective measures to maintain the health of both our guests and our front line staff when clients are able to keep appointments.
  • The emotional impact of the virus has meant that many of our neighbors are experiencing anxiety, depression, isolation or feelings of helplessness and fear. Our counseling services have helped them cope with the impacts of these feelings, strengthening their ability to weather the uncertainties that we face at this challenging time.

As these needs increase in our community, we are also being called upon to do more with less—a lot less in many cases, as cancelled fundraising events across the community, along with lack of revenue from canceled in-person client appointments and group events continue to severely impact the resources our organizations rely on to do our important work.

Nationally, some of the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations are calling for inclusion of our sector in any economic stimulus package, recognizing that our sector is the third largest employment sector. In fact, the vast majority of nonprofits are small businesses, with 92% operating with under $1M in annual spending.

We often assume that nonprofit organizations will be there for all of us when we need them. 

Unfortunately, our sector has not fully recovered from the 2008 economic recession and a recent study shows that more than half of nonprofit organizations have less than one month’s cash, demonstrating how fragile our community safety net really is. 

Because we serve our community’s most vulnerable residents, we need a stronger infrastructure not just for today’s crisis, but to strengthen our communities for the future. Now, more than ever, we need both policies and our community partners to support us with their gifts of time and money.

As you reflect on your leadership during this crisis, we hope you will support your local nonprofit with an additional donation or an offer of support. Together, we can help those most impacted by the virus while maintaining the social safety net that is crucial to a strong and resilient community.

Submitted by:

The Steering Committee for Brave Commitments, a coalition of youth serving human service organizations in King County convened to strengthen and stabilize services for the children, youth, young adults and families of our community.

Anthony Austin, Executive Director, Southeast Youth and Family Services
Mahnaz Eshetu, Executive Director, Refugee Women’s Alliance
Melinda Giovengo, CEO, YouthCare
Mike Heinisch, Executive Director, Kent Youth and Family Services


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