It’s only been a day since Virginia declared a state of emergency, and yet many area residents’ lives have already changed. With the two-week closure of the public school system comes a cascade of impacts for parents and children. Concerns have gone from stockpiling emergency supplies and washing hands more frequently to disrupted work schedules, and now, figuring out meals, childcare, and transportation. 

In response, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (CACF) recently announced the creation of its Community Emergency Response Fund to help serve those who will be most financially impacted by the pandemic. The fund is open for donations now and will operate in partnership with local governments, schools and businesses to address myriad needs that will arise due to the pandemic. 

CACF Executive Director Brennan Gould issued a statement that emphasized how local philanthropy funding could play a role in the response to the pandemic while collaborating with both the public and private sectors. 

“Our goal, and what we are learning is most effective in other communities, is to build a flexible and nimble resource that can move strategically to scaffold the nonprofit sector and complement local government, education, and private sector responses. We are still learning what those responses will be but want to begin building the community resource now,” Gould said.

CACF, which administers other charitable grants and funding sources in the region as a community foundation, also oversaw the creation and administration of the Heal Charlottesville Fund, which addressed the needs of victims from the attacks on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017. 

Brendan Wolfe, CACF spokesperson, said the Heal Charlottesville Fund experience would help shape the organization’s response to this crisis.

“As with our work with the Heal Charlottesville Fund, we are working on understanding the landscape and seeking the best ways to leverage philanthropy,” Wolfe said. “We are reaching out to grant partners throughout our region to understand the needs they’re seeing. We’re also exploring ways for individuals across the region to be able to let us know about their specific needs in order to help us prioritize the use of funds.”

In addition to the health concerns that COVID-19 brings to high-risk populations like the aging and health workers, the collateral effects on systems will impact vulnerable communities disproportionately. The purpose of the Community Emergency Response Fund is to have a flexible source of funding available to ensure that vulnerable residents can get the help they need when they need it. 

In a release from CACF it read that the fund will “seek to support, in particular, residents without health insurance or access to sick days, people with limited English language proficiency, healthcare and gig economy workers, and communities of color. Lower-income and international students will face particular challenges as schools and universities close.”

CACF is one of many area organizations that have announced they would be working remotely in the interim. Charlottesville Tomorrow asked if there was a website link or phone number for those in the service or gig industries who do not have organizations representing them or who cannot take paid sick leave to contact for assistance. 

Wolfe said the operational details of the fund were still being developed. 

“It’s still early in the process. But we wanted to get word out about this fund so we could encourage people to donate and to help us understand where the gaps are that we can try to fill,” Wolfe said. 

Wolfe said that the allocation of CACF money to this fund is underway, but they wanted to get the word out to have donations roll in.  Anyone who wishes to donate to CACF’s Community Emergency Response Fund can do so here.

This is an ongoing story and will be updated. Charlottesville Tomorrow will take a look into what other community organizations are offering resources and assistance.