By Carla Roberts, President and CEO, Fremont Area Community Foundation
Business as unusual—that’s where we are right now. We are all in service to our community, whether operating for profit, as a nonprofit, or as a unit of government. We are all struggling to navigate the current situation and our daily lives have been drastically altered. We are all concerned for our loved ones, our community, our customers, and for our financial and physical health.
Fremont Area Community Foundation is a flexible community resource that is here for the long term. While we cannot address every need across every sector, we are being creative, flexible, and adaptable to the new situation. We envision three distinct phases of need surrounding the COVID crisis:
Respond: Immediate short-term
Currently, we are focused on immediate short-term needs and have allocated a total of $375,000 to Newaygo County nonprofit entities. These limited funds will not be sufficient to meet the escalation of very critical, urgent needs. These funds are primarily going to agencies that provide food, shelter, medical care, and childcare to a rapidly growing number of residents and essential workers in our community. In collaboration with United Way-Newaygo County, the Community Foundation is raising funds to meet the increased need for basic services in Newaygo County.
Please help support immediate needs in our community by giving at facommunityfoundation.org/covid.
Readjust: Intermediate recovery
The nonprofit sector is adjusting to a new environment. Organizations that provide essential services must adapt to fewer volunteers and new requirements for how they interact with the public. Planned fundraising events may be cancelled. There may be fewer donors as more families struggle because of unemployment. Schools will need additional support as well as hardware and software to move to digital instruction. The list seems limitless. To facilitate intermediate recovery, the Community Foundation is adjusting our grantmaking. This includes grants that have already been awarded, those waiting to be paid, and those under review. We will maximize flexibility and allow project grants to be converted to address the current need.
Businesses are also making major adjustments. Some businesses have a heavier workload but more restrictions on how they do their work. Others have no work at all, especially many of the small businesses that are the backbone of our rural economy.
It is critical that all entities in need of support—whether for profit or nonprofit—seek all available federal and state dollars. We know it is a complex, complicated, and frustrating process. But it is important that local businesses and organizations stick with it and pursue all available opportunities. The longer they wait, the further down the line they will be. Community Foundation resources cannot come close to what can be accessed through government resources.
The CARES Act, signed into law March 27, 2020, provided federal government support in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis and associated economic fallout. The Paycheck Protection Program gave businesses—both for-profit and nonprofit—the opportunity to apply for a potentially forgivable loan to keep employees working and help with basic expenses such as rent and utilities. Because of overwhelming requests, the funds were exhausted on April 16; however, additional funds may be appropriated. There are other available resources as well.
Now is the time to be prepared for new opportunities as they arise. To help local nonprofits and for-profit businesses navigate available resources, we have identified experts in the community to provide guidance. Organizations should also consult their business advisors—attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, and bankers—to make the best decisions for current and future viability.
Our Respond and Readjust phases already overlap. We can’t predict how long these phases will last or the magnitude of the need. We also must ensure that the Community Foundation is viable for the recovery period and beyond. The community will need us well beyond the immediate crisis and the intermediate recovery period, and stock market fluctuations may impact our grantmaking for many years to come.
Restructure: Long-term recovery
Newaygo County is a strong, collaborative community. We already work together well. But underneath is a fragility that is being dramatically revealed. Far too many families live too close to the edge. We entered this crisis with over 40 percent of working families unable to make ends meet and that number could continue to grow. Mental health supports will be critical to a community recovering from trauma. Additionally, far too many businesses lack the resources to weather the storm. Our community will require additional support such as human resources and legal and accounting expertise to get back to work and put structures back in place.
As this crisis continues to unwind, we will find ourselves in a different environment. It is likely that some organizations and businesses will no longer be with us, but the needs will continue. As we rally together to determine how to meet ongoing needs, the long-term recovery will be a time of opportunity and a time to restructure in ways that ensure capacity to meet the next crisis stronger and even more unified.
What we do today will have a deep and lasting impact on tomorrow. The Community Foundation is deploying as many tools as we can leverage to ensure that we are here for our community today, tomorrow, and forever!
Carla A. Roberts
President and CEO
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