Vt. Community Foundation awards COVID response grants
MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Community Foundation announced five key recovery initiatives that will be the focus of upcoming grant rounds from the VT COVID-19 Response Fund. Since the fund’s inception, the Community Foundation has granted over $2.6 million to support pandemic response, while earmarking a significant portion of the more than $7.4 million raised to support initiatives that the foundation has identified as essential to help the state recover from — and improve upon — major challenges magnified by the pandemic.
“In the last six months, Vermont has witnessed more disruption than many of us have ever experienced, and the pandemic has exposed just how many Vermonters struggle with the opportunity gap in their daily lives,” says Dan Smith, president & CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation. “Since March, we’ve focused our efforts on ensuring vulnerable populations received basic needs to weather the worst of the pandemic. Now, we hope to continue bringing together public and private partners around key recovery initiatives and set the pathway to creating a more resilient Vermont for all Vermonters.”
Although Vermont continues to see one of the lowest infection rates in the country, more than 40,000 people remain unemployed, one in four Vermonters are food insecure, and the geographic areas already struggling before the pandemic are the same areas dealing with some of its most severe effects. Each recovery initiative is grounded in data, relies on network and capacity building, and focuses on systemic change.
The initiatives include:
• Rural Entrepreneurship: Create strong rural communities by supporting infrastructure for entrepreneurship, small businesses, and vibrant downtowns.
• Food System Resilience: Strengthen local food systems by investing in farm viability and connections between local food, food insecurity, and food access.
• Rural Connectivity: Establish equitable Internet access for communities by exploring and expanding existing models.
• Learning in Transition: Develop cradle-to-career infrastructure by identifying the best career pathways and supporting service and skill-building for youth and adults.
• Welcoming, Equitable, Anti-Racist Communities: Set the stage for a more inclusive Vermont by building community capacity to engage and address racial equity, diversity, social justice, and systemic racism.
An initial round of early stage grants totaling $238,000 went to organizations that are actively working within one or more of the recovery initiatives. This is just the beginning, and the Community Foundation expects to be grantmaking throughout the remainder of 2020 as the statewide and regional strategies continue to evolve. The Community Foundation will also be keeping a close eye on needs associated with pandemic response as the weather turns and the end of the year approaches as follows:
• Rural Entrepreneurship: $105,000 to Community Capital of Vermont, Flexible Capital Fund, and Opportunities Credit Union to fill early and growth stage capital gaps for Vermont entrepreneurs and provide financial counseling for low-income individuals.
• Rural Connectivity: $90,000 to nine Communications Union Districts—two or more towns that join as a municipal entity to build communications infrastructure—for general operating support ($10,000/each).
• Learning in Transition: $25,000 to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps to launch a multi-organizational process of developing an expanded service corps model for Vermont.
• Welcoming, Equitable, Anti-Racist Communities: $18,000 to the Vermont Social Equity Task Force, managed through the Peace and Justice Center, to support broad engagement in the development of recommendations on social equity that advance Vermont communities.
To learn more about the Community Foundation’s COVID-19 response and recovery, visit vtcovid19response.org.
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