Kris Hermanns is a Philanthropy Northwest board member and the chief impact officer at Seattle Foundation. She also provides staffing support to All In WA, a coordinated statewide relief effort to provide immediate critical and emergency support to workers and families most affected by the impacts of COVID-19 across Washington state.
In March 2020, Washington state became ground zero for COVID-19 in the United States. The impacts of the pandemic grew in scale and severity each day. So too did the imperative for the philanthropic sector to step up in new ways to meet the unprecedented needs.
In response, All in Washington was launched in May 2020 by a coalition of public, private and philanthropic leaders to mobilize support for vulnerable populations and families across the state who were most affected by this crisis. Part of this engagement and education campaign included the launch of the All In WA Relief Fund with generous support from Amazon and Microsoft, and an unprecedented $25 million, one-to-one match on donations from Jeff Bezos.
The All In WA Relief Fund is governed by an advisory group comprised of a diverse cross-section of community leaders from across the state. Through a series of learning sessions, the advisory group has focused on designing a grant program that would address the biggest gaps that philanthropy could help meaningfully fill.
What we learned was daunting:
- Rates of unemployment are higher than at the deepest point of the Great Recession.
- An estimated 245,000 rental households are unable to pay their rent or are at risk of eviction.
- 2 million people are estimated to be food insecure, an increase of 50% from the previous year.
- 16% of licensed child-care programs have closed and 48% report they are at risk of closure.
- Domestic and intimate-partner violence is growing, with an increase of 17% in domestic violence cases compared to 2019.
- Three million people in Washington state are expected to experience clinically significant behavioral health symptoms in the next 3-6 months, a dramatic rise.
The impacts are staggering and disproportionately experienced by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). The disparate impacts fall on undocumented residents as well. Across almost every indicator, the data told a sadly familiar story: the pandemic compounded existing racialized inequities with no clear funding stream to address them. We also learned that the impacts are more pronounced in rural, remote and tribal communities where supports may not exist, or people have difficulty accessing services due to language barriers, eligibility, distance or historic patterns of discrimination.
In response, the All In WA Relief Fund will deploy more than $11 million (and growing) to the following grantmaking priorities with an emphasis on BIPOC and undocumented populations, as well as rural and remote communities:
- Emergency Flexible Financial Assistance – grants to community-based organizations that provide disproportionately impacted individuals and families with flexible financial support to meet their basic needs and regain stability in their lives. Applications are open until October 23.
- Child Care – grants for BIPOC-owned home-based child-care centers to help subsidize care for economically vulnerable families, cover added costs of new safety measures and stay open during a period of under-enrollment. Applications to open in mid-October.
- Mental Health – grants to community-based organizations to address mental and behavioral health needs of youth and their caregivers. Applications to open in late October.
The funding guidelines and application are available at www.AllInWa.org. We welcome other funders to join All In Washington. If there were ever a time for philanthropy to step up and go all in, it is right now.