The United Way for Southeastern Michigan has received a $2 million grant to support its COVID-19 relief efforts from Harlem Children’s Zone, a New York City nonprofit that provides opportunities for children and families to thrive in school, work, and life. The grant is part of a larger initiative by Harlem Children’s Zone to help cities with large African American populations as the pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community.
An average of 44 percent of the households across the state are struggling to meet their basic needs like food, housing, and other necessities, says Jerome Espy, director of public relations at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. And in communities of color, he says those numbers are much higher. “Since these dollars from the Harlem Children’s Zone are targeted to the Black community, we know that in cities like Detroit, more than 73 percent of families are struggling. That affects children directly. Our goal is to support more stable households, where children have the ability to thrive.”
With the grant, United Way will be able to provide high-quality virtual programming to keep students on the path to graduation and to keep them engaged throughout social distancing efforts to prevent learning loss. The nonprofit will also offer access to mental health resources for people experiencing trauma associated with COVID-19 deaths, sickness, and prolonged isolation. Financial support will also be provided to families experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic.
Harlem Children’s Zone aims to raise $50 million to support the Black community during this time. “The evidence is clear and indisputable — African American communities are the most vulnerable,” says Geoffrey Canada, founder and president of Harlem Children’s Zone. “African Americans are most readily susceptible to become infected, suffer more severe symptoms, and die at significantly higher numbers. We must do everything humanly possible to turn this data around.”
The nonprofit — which is also partnering with organizations in Minneapolis, Oakland, Chicago, Newark, and Atlanta — recently received a $26 million grant from funding initiative The Audacious Project in support of this goal.
Funding is meant to aid in five critical areas: protecting the most vulnerable through items like face coverings, food, cleaning and disinfecting supplies, and health monitors; bridging the digital divide by providing access to reliable internet and designated devices for remote learning; preventing learning loss, mitigating the mental health crisis, and providing economic relief and recovery.