2020: COVID-19 and Beyond

CEO Jessica Muroff recently held another set of stakeholder virtual meetings to bring our Leadership Societies, Boards and other important constituencies up-to-date on our COVID-19 response over the last few months and what resources we continue providing as we advance our impact areas of early literacy, financial stability and youth success.

Beginning in mid-March, our team focused on helping our community navigate the pandemic. We quickly established an online Coronavirus Assistance Center so that individuals could quickly and easily navigate to the assistance they needed – food banks, VITA tax help, 2-1-1, unemployment benefits, job links, mental health helplines, and more. The page continues to provide help to our neighbors in crisis, now including information on CARES Act Funding and how to deal with an eviction notice as the moratoriums end.

Also in mid-March, the Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund was created to provide immediate assistance to those suffering financial hardships due to the pandemic. The fund has raised $1.8M, with $1.5 awarded so far. An additional $300,000 was donated after the other funds had been disbursed and a committee is determining where these funds will go. The initial $1.5M received went to 75 agencies across our five-county footprint for food (29%), housing/shelter (26%), financial stability, mental health, healthcare and childcare for children of essential workers. Of the 503K unduplicated individuals and 293K HHs who received assistance, 67% of IND and 39% of HH were ALICE (Alice Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). Already living paycheck to paycheck, the pandemic proved to be the emergency that these hardworking households could ill afford.

Jessica also spoke about the efforts of our VITA program, quickly pivoting to virtual services to continue providing desperately needed tax prep service, and our Resource Centers, which not only provided virtual services but partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay to provide ongoing weekly food distributions to the Campbell Park (St. Petersburg), North Greenwood (Clearwater), and Sulphur Springs (Tampa) neighborhoods that they serve.

She wrapped up the call by addressing the ongoing needs of our region and spoke of our work with the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and USF, to produce the State of the Region report. The latest report discusses the effects of the pandemic on our community, businesses and individuals and also includes a Regional Re-Opening Dashboard, Regional Recovery Dashboard, Community Report, Community Forum and the new Regional Equity Report. Resources can be accessed at state of the region.

As we face the uncertainty of an ongoing pandemic, a looming eviction crisis and continued financial instability, the one certainty moving forward is that our community needs United Way Suncoast more than at any other time in recent history.