COVID-19 Community Support Initiative Extension
To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer and Ka Yee C. Lee
Subject: COVID-19 Community Support Initiative Extension
Date: June 24, 2020
Since the University launched the COVID-19 Community Support Initiative in late March to address food insecurity and provide emergency bridge grants and other support for our South Side neighbors impacted by the pandemic, we have been inspired by the positive response and partnership from the University community, civic partners, and our South Side neighbors.
Today we are pleased to announce that generous contributions from members of the University community and our partners will allow the initiative to expand and continue providing needed aid to South Side residents, small businesses, and nonprofits. Through this new effort, the University will continue to support the South Side at a time of great economic and social pressure, while creating opportunities for South Side caterers who have seen a dramatic decrease in business as a result of the pandemic.
The Community Support Initiative has so far provided nearly 260,000 meals to community members struggling to feed themselves or their families across UChicago’s nine neighborhood focus area and beyond – 35,000 more than the original commitment. The University has additionally awarded $1.3 million in emergency bridge grants to more than 200 small businesses and 79 community-based nonprofits on the South Side – $300,000 more than the original commitment. The initiative also provided rent relief to 27 University small business tenants and established a campaign to support local UChicago Medicine health care workers on the frontlines of confronting this crisis, as well as the patients and families who are affected.
The second phase of our commitment will serve the community through the following elements:
New Meal Distribution Program
The University will work closely through August 9 with locally-owned catering businesses on the South Side to prepare and distribute 1,000 meals per day to approximately 15 distribution sites, many of which serve seniors and other vulnerable populations who are susceptible to COVID-19.
Expanded Small Business Support
The University will build on its ongoing support for local small businesses, including some that recently sustained damage from vandalism and looting, with expanded programming tailored to those grappling with the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This programming will include a broadened Small Business Growth Program through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and monthly virtual Small Business Circle gatherings led by the Polsky Center in partnership with the Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership, among other offerings.
Expanded Nonprofit Support
In order to continue to serve community-based nonprofits and support the frontline human service providers in many neighborhoods, the Office of Civic Engagement’s Community Programs Accelerator has matched UChicago student consultants with nonprofit grant recipients from the first wave of the initiative on project-specific requests. The Accelerator will additionally offer its full capacity-building services to critical business support organizations such as local Chambers of Commerce, as well as to other grassroots groups that support block clubs and other neighborhood organizations. Virtual workshops and series for local nonprofits will also be available.
In addition to the Community Support Initiative, the University is committed to partnering with local business owners and community leaders to identify new ways to support their efforts to rebuild and strengthen their communities moving forward. To learn more about this work, please visit www.coronavirusupdates.uchicago.edu/community-support.
In this uncertain time, it is critical that we join together to support our shared community. We thank you for your ongoing commitment to this important work.