RI Foundation awards $5M in CARES Act money to local nonprofits across state

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the year comes to a close, help is on the way for local nonprofits dealing with lower revenue, but rising demand for services during the ongoing pandemic.

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded $5 million in federal CARES Act funding to more than 120 local nonprofits across the state, Foundation leaders announced Monday.

“It’s out, it’s gone. They’re spending it now, and they have to spend it before the end of the year,” R.I. Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg told 12 News in a virtual interview Friday.

Steinberg says the Foundation partnered with the state and offered to run the grant program, noting that there was money earmarked for non-profits that still had to be spent before the year ends.

The Foundation administered two pools of CARES Act funding — the Nonprofit Support Fund and the Nonprofit Support for Domestic Violence Victims Fund — on behalf of the state.

Four million dollars is going to support nonprofits offering new or expanded program services or direct assistance that responds to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on individuals and communities.

According to the Foundation, eligible uses of funds are limited to new or direct costs incurred in the provision of these services and direct assistance, including increased staffing, equipment, supplies, and material.

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“You know, this could be for organizations that are serving kids and food and diapers. It could be serving the elderly to help them with telehealth, it could be for veterans. It could be for everybody in different communities,” Steinberg said. “And then another million dollars on top of that, specifically to help address domestic violence.”

Project Undercover is one of 119 nonprofits that received grants through the Nonprofit Support Fund. They plan to purchase winter clothing, like gloves, woolen hats, and hand-warmers for thousands of infants and toddlers, which will be distributed through a network of 26 community action programs and social service agencies across Rhode Island.

In addition to the clothing, Project Undercover will also distribute 1,300 packages of diapers.

Richard Fleischer, president of the board of directors at Project Undercover, says the pandemic has brought on an increased demand for diapers.

“With a lot of people laid off, people at home, kids at home, daycare centers [closed], which may have provided diapers in the past, now that’s up to parents,” Fleischer said. “If you do the math, if you’re going through eight diapers a day per kid, you’re spending 25 to 30 cents a diaper, by the end of the year if you’ve got one kid, you just went through $1,000.”

Fleischer says the non-profit is still secure with its core products like diapers and socks, but as of mid-December had just run out of wipes.

“Although that wasn’t part of this grant request with Rhode Island Foundation, that’s something that we have to allocate money for,” Fleischer said. “By Rhode Island Foundation giving us things like gloves, which is something that we probably wouldn’t purchase, we can now allocate that money back to buying wipes.”

He says Project Undercover is receiving roughly $24,000 in grant money.

“It’s a big help,” Fleischer said. “Not only in the terms of the product that we’re able to buy with them, but the fact that it takes a load off our shoulders, so we can spend some of the money that we’ve raised through our fundraising efforts on the things we do every day.”

The Foundation also awarded $1 million to eight organizations for program services or direct assistance to address COVID-19 impacts on survivors of domestic violence. The grants are distributed through the Foundation’s Nonprofit Support for Domestic Violence Victims Fund.

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) will use its $475,000 grant to respond to fund improvements to shelters to keep them COVID-compliant, while also supporting increased counseling services, childcare, and other assistance for victims.

Since the pandemic began in March, RICADV executive director Tonya Harris says calls to the statewide emergency Helpline and member agency hotlines have increased.

The Helpline: 24-Hour Support »

“Numbers certainly don’t tell the whole story. However, we have seen at least double and in some instances over a 90% increase in the amount of calls,” Harris said. “And while calls have increased, we’ve also seen an increase in the demand for all of our services. So, this funding will allow us to better support that.”

Harris says through the coalition’s member agencies, just under 6,000 clients were served, and just under 15,000 emergency shelter bed nights between March and September of this year alone.

In a year of many people staying at home, Harris emphasized for survivors of domestic violence, home is not necessarily a safe place. She says this kind of partnership and grant is “so crucial, now more than ever.”

“A survivor may be living with their abuser during the pandemic in the shelter-in-place, and so the abuser will have 24/7 access to the victim,” Harris said. “However, it’s really important for folks to know, whether it’s a pandemic, or whether it’s a stress of losing a job, not being able to pay rent or mortgage, violence is never justifiable, and the excuse of that being the stress certainly is not justifiable either.”

The full list of grant recipients is posted at rifoundation.org.

The funding for the grants came from the state’s $1.25 billion share of federal CARES Act funding, which was approved by Congress for COVID-19 relief earlier this year.

“This pandemic has increased demand for many services provided by local nonprofits. These organizations have been working overtime to deliver critical relief and assistance,” U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said in a statement Monday. “This federal funding will ensure more nonprofits have the resources they need to continue helping families and communities recover.”

Monday’s announcement comes just hours after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a coronavirus relief bill deal was reached.

Sunday evening, Congress agreed on a $900 billion relief package that includes a new round of direct payments, plus help for jobless Americans.

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