Marin Community Foundation offers $500K for virus response

Author: Richard Halstead

Date: 3/17/2020

Publication: Marin Independent Journal

The Marin Community Foundation has offered to supply $500,000 in matching funds to bolster the county’s response to the coronavirus emergency.


“What I would be recommending is that your board match that for a total of $1 million,” Marin County Administrator Matthew Hymel told county supervisors Tuesday.


The supervisors did not discuss whether they would authorize the expenditure during their weekly meeting, which was abbreviated due to the emergency.


In an email, Supervisor Katie Rice, the board president, expressed confidence that the county will match the foundation’s offer.


“It is so important,” Rice wrote, “that we continue to work together – government, philanthropy, business and community at large — to support each other, the broader community, and weather this incredibly difficult time.”


Thomas Peters, chief executive of the foundation, said it is also creating a separate fund for private donors who want to contribute to the effort. In addition to managing the Buck Trust, the proceeds from which are spent exclusively on Marin County projects, the foundation also oversees private “donor-advised” funds.


Peters said over the weekend that he and Hymel discussed how some of the prospective $1 million might be spent to soften the impact of the coronavirus onslaught, which threatens local residents and the local economy.


Peters said that, at least initially, he sees the money being spent in five critical areas. First is the need for emergency housing in the form of rental assistance or rapid rehousing. The county was already dealing with an affordable housing crisis before the virus hit.


Two of the other areas identified for possible investment are related to school closures. One is to ensure that disadvantaged students who were being fed breakfast and lunch at school continue to get that food. The other is making sure that all students have access to the internet so they can continue learning at home.


“Even here in Marin County,” Peters said, “there is a number of youngsters for whom the nutritious meal or meals at school are the best and most nutritious meals they have.”


Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke said a third of Marin County students are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch, which means their family income can’t exceed $644 per week if they live in a family of four.


Burke said that given the economic impact of the virus, the county needs to be concerned with the overall nutrition of students and their families.


Another area of concern is child care for health care workers and first responders.


“We’re trying to establish new capacity for health care workers and emergency responders so they can do the critical public work,” Hymel told supervisors on Tuesday. “We’re talking about repurposing some of the public facilities that have closed such as our libraries, teen centers and schools.”


And Peters said there is also a need to bolster senior services, since those 65 and older are particularly vulnerable to the virus.


“We’re grappling with how we’re going to replace the congregant lunches that programs like Whistlestop and San Geronimo Valley Community Center have had running for years now,” Peters said.


Nonprofits, which Marin County contracts with to supply critical social services, are being hit hard by the health crisis. Peters said his phone has been ringing with calls from nonprofits that the foundation supports with grants.


“A lot of nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteer services,” Peters said.


He pointed to the Ceres Community Project, which enlists teens to prepare food for people with life-threatening illnesses and their families, as an example.


“The delivery of those meals,” Peters said, “is largely dependent on a volunteer force of drivers, many of whom are elderly.”


Peters said nonprofits are also suffering because the spring is when many of them hold key fundraising events.


“These nonprofits rely on these fundraisers for a fair amount of their income,” Peters said. “Their sudden cancellation puts them under pressure.”


He said he is preparing an email blast to 120 to 130 nonprofits letting them know that the foundation is easing some reporting and funding criteria to give them the maximum amount of flexibility during this crisis.


Peters said he is less concerned about the effect that the tanking of stock market prices is having on the foundation’s corpus.



“We’re in for one Crazy Mouse ride for sure,” he said, “but we’re counting on the fact that somewhere further down the line that we’ll get through to the other side of this.”


Peters said the foundation bases funding decisions on five-year averages of market earnings so as not to overreact to sudden market swings. He said the foundation also keeps some of its money in flexible short-term investments so it isn’t hamstrung during emergencies such as this.


“It doesn’t immediately affect our capacity,” he said regarding the market downturn. “This is why our focus is on what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as the ‘fierce urgency of now.'”


Read the original article here: https://www.marinij.com/2020/03/17/marin-community-foundation-offers-500k-for-virus-response/

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