Fear and anxiety around the health and economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have touched everyone. For community members whose seasonal work ended abruptly when ski resorts, restaurants and hotels closed, those stressors are compounded by the threat of imminent homelessness and hunger.
As Summit County officials rolled out a critical shutdown this month to slow the virus’s spread, Park City Community Foundation surveyed nonprofits in greater Park City to assess needs, concerns and crises.
More than 50 nonprofits completed our survey, and painted a dire picture of a vulnerable population at risk of losing basic necessities like food, health care, medicine, and housing.
Local nonprofits are reeling from reduced work hours and outright job losses; declining revenue due to cancelled events; increased costs for online work technology; lack of volunteers during social distancing; and questions around how other nonprofits are navigating the pandemic.
And amid those challenges is an exponentially increasing number of people turning to them for help.
Park City Community Foundation simultaneously administered a survey to Spanish-speaking community members that revealed that of the 140 people who responded, 93% had either lost their jobs or had had their hours drastically cut within the last two weeks due to widespread closures.
As a result, on March 20, Park City Community Foundation activated for the first time ever our Community Response Fund, which was created in 2018 to rapidly and flexibly address unforeseeable emergencies.
A generous outpouring of donor support collected more than $300,000 within a week of activating the fund. As of March 24, we had distributed a quarter of that.
“Some of the immediate needs in the community are around paying bills, food security and childcare,” said Sarah MacCarthy, Special Projects Manager at Park City Community Foundation. “A lot of families rely on those jobs, and many don’t have PTO or benefits. When they close the hotel or restaurant it’s really closing all sources of income for them.”
Christian Center of Park City (CCPC) received the largest Community Response Fund grant thus far, of $25,000. That first grant will help their clients pay bills and meet basic needs. MacCarthy said CCPC was inundated last week with a massive increase in applications for assistance and more than 100 new clients visited the food pantry.
“It’s impressive how quickly the community came together, how quickly donors acted and how quickly grants went out,” she said. “It’s one of the advantages of being a part of a small community: We can make things happen pretty quickly from all sides.”
Park City Community Foundation is in all-hands-on-deck mode. The team is evaluating requests and disbursing rapid-response grants throughout the community while also connecting with landlords to negotiate alternatives to eviction for residents whose incomes disappeared overnight.
“April 1 is going to be a stressful time for families,” said Diego Zegarra, Park City Community Foundation’s Social Equity Director. “And folks with underlying medical issues are having an even harder time.”
Zegarra said Park City Community Foundation is coordinating and triaging community needs, helping Park City Municipal establish trusted neighborhood networks for communication, and laying groundwork for other types of assistance as the pandemic’s impact unfolds.
As an example of just how far its effects could ripple through people’s lives, he mentioned current freshman college students who comprise the first class of Bright Futures. As first-generation college students, they come from families who may need them to put college on hold and go to work to help support their families.
“The needs are really going to evolve as this progresses,” MacCarthy said. “We are getting the funds out to the community, and also realizing this could be a long-term challenge.”
In the face of an evolving crisis, it is also a time to take stock of blessings, Zegarra said. Among those is that years of building community relationships and fostering trust enables Park City Community Foundation to fill a crucial niche – bringing the community together to mobilize quickly and effectively.