by Phil Hanson, President and CEO, Truman Heartland Community Foundation
The COVID-19 fog, as I refer to it, still refuses to lift making it difficult to see what is in front of us, to see into the future. Who knew that kids going back to school could be so stressful and controversial as parents grapple with making choices on what they think is best for their children?
Many families in our community are continuing to experience unemployment for the first time and now that the enhanced support from the federal government has expired, these families will be facing a financial crisis as they decide to pay the mortgage/rent, pay utilities or buy food for their children.
As of August 25, the State of Missouri website reads “Missouri is assessing the President’s August 8, 2020 Executive Order regarding additional unemployment benefits... and our unemployment agents are not able to provide any additional information at this time.” I hope the U.S. House and Senate can come together to provide extended relief even though that looks more challenging as each day passes. While Wall Street is reaching new highs, Main Street is still suffering.
The talk around recovering from the recession has some economists referring to a K recovery versus a V or U. The top part of the K, the incline, is what those fortunate to still have jobs are experiencing with many working remotely. The lower part of the K is the continued downturn, reflecting the experience of those still unemployed. It feels to me that Wall Street as well as our government is fiddling while Main Street burns.
There is some good news. We have nonprofit organizations on the front lines that are helping people who are trying to navigate the process to find the essentials for survival that many of us take for granted. Now is clearly a crucial time for our community to come together, support each other and for those who are able, to support nonprofits in our community assisting our neighbors. Our nonprofit organizations play an important role in bringing us together and creating community. Let’s not let this pandemic tear us apart.
In March, your Community Foundation created a new resource on our website “Nonprofits Responding to Community Needs and COVID-19”. We received a strong response from our fundholders and awarded grants over $240,000 in direct response to the pandemic. We encourage our fundholders to make another round of grants to these organizations. That resource on our website is as relevant today as it was in March as it provides information on how nonprofits are navigating and assisting the community during this continuing crisis.
Time and time again our nonprofit organizations have found innovative ways to continue to meet the needs of those they serve by overcoming the challenges of delivering client services during the pandemic. Many of these organizations are doing this even though they have decreased revenue because of cancelled fundraising events.
In March, the Community Foundation’s Board and staff decided to accelerate our support of nonprofits by adjusting the timeline for our annual competitive grants program. In the months that followed, we worked with members of our four community Advisory Boards and students in our Youth Advisory Council to review more than $892,000 in grant requests. A process that normally spans the summer was completed in half the time. By fast-tracking the review process, we were able to award grant checks in July instead of the usual November.
I am pleased to share that Truman Heartland awarded $310,810 in grants to 48 nonprofits serving Eastern Jackson County and the surrounding communities through the 2020 competitive grants program. This includes $48,600 in contributions from partners, like our Youth Advisory Council, the Junior Service League of Independence and multiple donor advised fundholders. Visit www.thcf.org to learn more about this year’s competitive grants recipients.
As I stated its unclear whether our federal government will work together to provide extended relief, but if you can, I encourage you to continue to support your favorite charities and consider making a gift to nonprofits that are providing relief and recovery support to those most in need during this crisis.
This year has brought many challenges, but it has also shown the compassion and resiliency of our community. As we move into fall, it is still important that we work together to stay healthy and to focus on ways to strengthen our community now and for the future.
Phil Hanson is the President and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Truman Heartland Community Foundation (THCF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through cooperation with community members and donors. THCF serves the region with assets of more than $50 million and annual grants surpassing $4.8 million. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816.836.8189.