The Community Emergency Relief Fund has been activated in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado.
The past two weeks have seen school closures, event cancellations, business interruptions and social distancing – placing an economic and social strain on the community. The emergency relief fund hopes to help alleviate the burden on community resources.
“We raised $12,000 in the first 24 hours it was open,” said Tracy Pope, marketing and grants director with the Community Foundation.
While no decisions have been made yet about disbursing funds, the foundation’s statement said it would “deploy funds to community-based organizations directly responding to the most vulnerable members of our community. These resources will be disbursed as needed and as available.”
CERF was established in response to the Seasons restaurant fire in 2008 and designed to support Southwest Colorado in community emergencies. It was reactivated in 2015 for the Gold King Mine spill and in 2016 for the Adobe Building fire in Pagosa Springs.
Most recently, the relief fund was activated for the 416 Fire in 2018. The fund raised almost $450,000 for those financially affected by the fire, Pope said. At least $46,000 of the relief fund went to individuals. Residents directly affected received between $250 and $500 in gift cards to pay for essentials, like gas and groceries.
While the impact of the of 416 Fire was localized to specific areas, Pope said the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has been a statewide, nationwide impact.
“As soon as it was clear there were going to be public health and economic impacts to the situation, it made sense to activate the CERF fund,” Pope said.
A committee of community stakeholders that reflects the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak – public health officials, school districts, businesses, local governments and nonprofits – will help to decide how the funds are disbursed, Pope said. The community panel will “prioritize available funds to meet immediate needs in our region, including public health needs and economic impacts,” the foundation’s statement said.
“Donations to CERF are designated for emergency use, and impactful distribution of funds will be determined as soon as possible by an advisory committee of local stakeholders,” Community Foundation Executive Director Briggen Wrinkle said in a news release.
The Community Foundation is currently accepting donations to the CERF at www.coloradogives.org/cerf.