The Open Society Foundations will provide $1 million in direct financial and other emergency support for workers in Baltimore who have been hit hard by COVID-19 and are at greatest risk of falling into extreme hardship, including those who are unemployed and the formerly incarcerated.
Open Society Institute-Baltimore will work with local partners to disperse direct cash assistance to un- and-underemployed workers and grassroots leaders looking to mitigate the impact on low-income communities of color in Baltimore. Funds will also go to local organizations offering responsive financial, job stabilization, and emergency services; a citywide initiative for young workers of color and workers with a criminal record; and community education and advocacy efforts to help remove structural barriers facing marginalized worker populations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the widespread poverty and high unemployment in many of Baltimore’s most marginalized communities,” said Danielle Torain, Director of OSI-Baltimore. “We intend to quickly disperse these funds to those most directly impacted to soften the pandemic’s economic impact and do so in ways that build the capacity of local partners and the city to advance a long and difficult recovery.”
Although the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus impacts all citizens regardless of wealth and place of residence, long-standing structural and economic inequities and fragile social safety nets in cities such as Baltimore place low-income residents and other vulnerable populations at particularly great risk of falling into an even deeper economic and social depression. Recent reports from other states that have disaggregated their data show that African Americans are dying from COVID-19-related illnesses at much higher rates than people of other races and ethnicities.
These funds are part of OSI-Baltimore’s ongoing response to the pandemic. In mid-March, OSI launched a comprehensive and regularly updated COVID-19 Information and Resources page that has since been visited by thousands of local residents. OSI program officers have connected with grantees on the front lines of COVID response to identify needs and make grants more flexible. In addition, OSI has worked with partners to prepare for changes to upcoming elections and ensure that residents don’t have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote.
“OSF has a longstanding and important relationship with the city of Baltimore and it was essential that we offer quick and substantial relief in the face of the pandemic,” said Tom Perriello, Executive Director of Open Society for the United States. “OSI-Baltimore staff will continue to work with partners in the city to identify needs, and be a partner with the city of Baltimore in building toward relief and recovery in every way we can.”
The funding being committed to Baltimore is part of an investment of more than $130 million to confront the impact of the coronavirus worldwide, including $37 million in emergency support for New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis. That funding will focus primarily on providing relief for low-wage workers, domestic workers, caregivers, and those in the informal and gig economies who are at greatest risk from the pandemic.
For more on Open Society Foundation’s emergency response to COVID-19, click here.
The Open Society Foundations works in more than 120 countries around the world to build vibrant and inclusive democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To learn more, visit OSF’s website here.
As Open Society Foundations’ only US field office, Open Society Institute-Baltimore focuses on the root causes of three intertwined problems in our city and state: drug addiction, an overreliance on incarceration, and obstacles that keep youth from succeeding both inside and outside the classroom. We also support a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in Baltimore.