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Open Society Foundations Invest in the District of Columbia’s Emergency Response to COVID-19

The Open Society Foundations to help some of D.C.’s most vulnerable residents affected by the pandemic.

The Open Society Foundations today announced plans to spend more than $1 million to help the District of Columbia respond to short-term needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open Society’s contributions will provide direct assistance and legal aid to families and workers struggling to obtain unemployment insurance and other benefits, as well as undocumented immigrants and families of currently incarcerated people.

“The Open Society Foundations are stepping up because this is a time to rally on behalf of those most in need and for the civic organizations striving to reduce structural inequalities in the District of Columbia,” Tom Perriello, executive director of Open Society-U.S., said. “Support from philanthropy and the business community is all the more critical because of Congress’s decision to shortchange the District in the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).”

By grouping the District of Columbia with U.S. territories, the CARES Act cost the District billions of dollars in aid allotted to states. Legal services assistance will help support workers who lost out on that support. The Foundations will make a grant of $250,000 to AYUDA, which has created a fund for low-income immigrants to help cover the costs of food, housing, medical care, as well as provide direct cash assistance during the COVID-19 emergency.

The Open Society Foundations also will provide $250,000 to support community-based and grassroots organizations, including the People’s Bailout Fund, to provide emergency cash assistance to unemployed and underemployed workers, in addition to grassroots leaders seeking to mitigate the disproportionate and adverse impact of the COVID-19 crisis on people of color, immigrants, and low-income communities.

The Foundations will direct another $250,000 to support D.C.-based nonprofits committed to creating living wage work, housing, and health protections for criminalized workers and recently released individuals. People who have been detained and incarcerated, as well as their families, are a particularly vulnerable population typically excluded from other relief assistance and services.

“We have a moral obligation to help the most vulnerable populations get the help they need. This is a first step towards building transformational change that addresses the needs of D.C.’s most marginalized citizens,” said Jasmine Mickens, senior policy specialist at the Open Society Foundations.

The Foundations will direct another $300,000 from its D.C. office to provide emergency support to organizations working to make sure that public health policies are inclusive of at-risk, low-income communities.

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