NEW YORK — The Ford Foundation, Schmidt Futures, Open Society Foundations, the JPB Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Amalgamated Foundation announced today the launch of the Families and Workers Fund, dedicated to serving the workers, families, and communities most devastated by the economic and health crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With an aim to raise $20 million, and initial commitment of $7.1 million, the fund will provide flexible funding to organizations working to prevent workers and families from sinking more deeply into poverty during the initial months of the pandemic, and to support policy and advocacy efforts that center workers and families in long-term economic recovery. The fund works to ensure responses to the pandemic are fast acting, long lasting, and informed by the people most affected.
“Low-wage workers stand at the forefront of this pandemic, reeling from the profound health and economic implications,” said Ai-Jen Poo, co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “As we dedicate our resources to supporting vulnerable working families across the United States, flexible and fast funding is critical. The creation of this fund is an important act of leadership, toward resilience for workers facing unprecedented hardship.”
The Families and Workers Fund will employ a two-tiered approach. The fund will facilitate direct cash grants and loans to individuals, with a focus on those who are most likely to be left out of the government’s emergency policy response—especially workers and families who are reeling from layoffs, temporary business and school shutdowns, and caretaking duties. The fund will also advance economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, designed with and for vulnerable workers, families, and communities, by providing grants to policy and advocacy organizations, worker groups, community nonprofits, and others advancing and implementing policies and business practices that stabilize working people during the acute phase of this crisis (e.g., paid sick days and unemployment insurance) and ultimately help to center them in the long-term economic recovery.
“The COVID-19 global pandemic continues to alter all of our lives. Soaring unemployment claims topping 17 million in just three weeks shows the exacerbated impact this crisis is having on low-income workers and their families,” said Sarita Gupta, director of the Ford Foundation’s Future of Work(ers) program. “Through this fund, we will address not only the immediate needs of workers and families during this crisis, but we will support long-term policy change that puts them at the center of the economic response.”
“The economic crisis is unfolding faster and harder than people predicted. Millions of people have suddenly been left without income or the prospect of a job on the horizon,” said Martha Gimbel, manager of economic research at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative co-founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. “We are excited to build out this network with the Ford Foundation to fund the exceptional talent that knows best how to provide immediate financial help to those who need it and how to develop the ideas for a long-term response to this crisis.”
COVID-19 is highlighting the deep structural defects in our economy. Low-wage workers have long faced low pay, shrinking benefits, and limited on-the-job opportunity, yet this crisis emphasizes how critical their work is to our survival and the functioning of our society. This fund will support community nonprofits, frontline groups, and worker organizations to help struggling workers understand and access benefits—especially new, emergency provisions organizations have long fought for.
In the face of the economic shock wrought by this pandemic, the medium-term and long-term goals of the Families and Workers Fund aim to support organizations working to inform recession planning and response, and to ensure federal, state, and local stimulus initiatives are evidence-based and designed with and for workers and communities. The fund will also leverage computer and data science to help optimize intervention outcomes for workers and communities, and enhance the tech and data capacities of worker and community nonprofits.
“This crisis is and will remain brutal, with particularly heavy costs falling on low-wage workers, care givers, undocumented workers, and so many others falling through the cracks,” said Tom Perriello, executive director of Open Society-U.S. “We need to find new and different ways to get relief to those in need, while continuing to build solidarity to demand greater rights and resiliency for all workers going forward.”
“COVID-19 demands that philanthropy step in to address the severe financial impact on millions of workers and families of this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Anna Fink, executive director of Amalgamated Foundation. “Amalgamated has deep roots as a bank for working people and we are deeply committed to helping support those most impacted. As we begin to understand the short- and long-term economic effects of COVID-19, we must ensure that workers and families are not left behind. This fund will move resources nimbly to address immediate needs while also supporting advocacy to empower working families over the long term.”
The Families and Workers Fund has been launched to support the most vulnerable people in our economy to navigate this current crisis, and to ensure recession plans center the families, workers, and communities who will be most affected. Learn more about the Families and Workers Fund here.