What Everyone Can Do While the Pandemic Rages


The coronavirus outbreak and the concomitant shutdowns have taken an enormous toll on our health, our wallets and our mental well-being. Behind each of these challenges is an array of nonprofit organizations with experience helping others in times of crisis and distress.

And yet all the elements that have made this crisis unique have also created a unique set of challenges for the nation’s charitable sector. Even as the needs increase, nervous or stretched donors may not be supporting these vital agencies at the levels they need now or even were accustomed to.

Big agencies are doing what they can, but pockets are only so deep. In New York, the UJA-Federation of New is making more than $23 million in immediate financial aid available to help offer immediate relief to New Yorkers facing food insecurity and, critically, to assist UJA partner organizations “so they can continue to provide essential health and human services to their communities.” The aid includes $1 million to help the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty supply food pantries across New York, $250,000 for a Passover meals to-go program, and a $20 million loan fund at the Hebrew Free Loan Society.

A $75 million New York City Covid-19 Response & Impact Fund will help “stabilize at-risk organizations that provide essential health and human services for millions of New Yorkers.” The fund was established by major charitable organizations, including Jewish philanthropies, and aims to help support cultural as well as social service organizations.

But as generous as that is, the needs are still greater. As Congress and state legislators weigh various relief packages, nonprofits are also looking for relief from the government. Several national groups — including UJA-Federation, the United Way, the YMCA and YWCA and the American Cancer Society — this week asked Congress for emergency funding to nonprofit organizations nationwide. They also requested additional tax breaks and other incentives meant to encourage charitable contributions, and maintenance of vital federal human service programs, including SNAP and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

Throughout this crisis, people stuck at home and so far blessed not to face the virus’ effects in their own families have been asking, “What can I do?” The answer: stay home, enable health care workers by not hoarding supplies and do what you can to take care of the most vulnerable, though your generous contributions and letting your lawmakers know where you stand.