EHF targets long-term focus in $10 million COVID-19 response plan

Episcopal Health Foundation leaders announced a $10 million plan to address the long-term effects of the COVID-19 crisis, while also helping nonprofits and organizations continue business operations to serve at-risk communities across Texas.

“COVID-19 is highlighting inequities in our health system and in many underlying community issues related to health,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO. “Chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes that are making COVID-19 so severe for some Texans can’t be prevented or fixed by health care alone. Our focus has always been on improving community health in Texas beyond just the doctor’s office, and this crisis is a clear example of why that’s vitally important.”

EHF’s plan includes a COVID-19 business continuity grant program that’s designed to help the foundation’s strategic grantees and partners across Texas continue business operations during the crisis. The program will prioritize partner organizations that are directly involved in COVID-19 response, serving populations likely to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and sustaining financial losses due to that work. The first round of grants will be awarded in May and EHF expects to announce another round of COVID-19 funding later in 2020.

“While we don’t know what’s coming next in this crisis, we do know that there’s going to be a long road ahead,” Marks said. “Needs will change as the situation evolves, and we want to be sure EHF’s strategic response maximizes both resources and impact to the communities we serve.”

In addition to the grant program, EHF is establishing an emergency loan fund that offers two-year, zero-interest loans of up to $1 million to help current grantees and partners that have additional mounting financial needs. The foundation also provided technical assistance to help organizations apply for the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program earlier this month and will continue that support during a possible second round of federal funding for the program. EHF is also offering the technical assistance to help partner organizations apply for any COVID-19 related government aid programs and/or other funding opportunities.

Along with financial help, EHF will conduct an extensive research project related to COVID-19 that’s similar to EHF’s groundbreaking survey conducted after Hurricane Harvey. The project’s goal will be to provide leaders working on relief efforts with reliable information about Texans’ needs and priorities for ongoing recovery. EHF is also working with partners across the state to develop a program to support those facing social isolation during this crisis. The effort is focused on establishing a scalable program that would connect volunteers electronically with seniors, nursing home residents, and others who have become even more isolated from others due to COVID-19.

Every community is feeling the health and economic effects of COVID-19 in many different ways and there are no easy answers, but EHF leaders believe this multi-approach strategy will provide a wide range of help to key organizations working to improve health, not just health care across Texas.

“Public health events like COVID-19 are experienced even more deeply by low-income communities or those living in a neighborhood that just doesn’t have access to many different services needed to be healthy,” said Marks. “To do this important work, we know that the organizations, clinics, and congregations working in these communities and supported by EHF must remain strong and effective both now and in the future.”