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Government, NGO Programs Promise COVID-19 Hardship Relief

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Chris Smith/Desert Companion

Palace Station Hotel - Casino sign displays a #vegasstronger message, evoking the city's last turbulent time, the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting.

The day after Governor Steve Sisolak’s order to close non-essential businesses, March 18, brought the promise of several programs to help families that might be affected by those closures and their resulting layoffs.

Coronavirus: What You Need To Know

Two nonprofit programs offer both assistance to those in need and opportunities for those who want to help to donate and volunteer, while the federal government’s Families First bill covers everything from free COVID-19 testing to worker relief.

President Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Wednesday. The entire Nevada congressional delegation supported the act, which provides for the following.

  • Free COVID-19 testing under both private insurance plans and Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, as well as funding for testing members of the military, tribal nations, and veterans
  • Between $250 million and $500 million each for federal food assistance programs serving pregnant mothers, food banks, and seniors, along with a suspension in the work requirement for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and more flexibility for school lunch programs
  • A range of worker relief measures, from mandatory paid sick leave and a Family and Medical Leave Act expansion, to tax credits and emergency grants for states’ unemployment insurance programs.

That was all on top of an $8.3 billion package passed last week to fund medical research and development, help state and local governments respond to the crisis, cover small business emergency loans, and waive telehealth restrictions on Medicare and Medicaid.

The private nonprofit sector, meanwhile, stepped up with two umbrella efforts to collect and distribute relief funds. The first is the Nevada Community Foundation, a fund management firm that distributes grants to charitable organizations. It has created the special COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which will focus on nonprofits that serve seniors, first responders, and vulnerable populations. The foundation pledges to give 100 percent of donations to the organizations, which have to apply to receive them. Donations can be made here. Nonprofits interested in applying should contact Nevada Community Foundation at info@nevadacf.org.

The second, United Way of Southern Nevada, gathered its major donors, collaborating agencies, and other interested parties and launched the UWSN Emergency Assistance and Community Needs Fund. Bank of America, NV Energy, and Wells Fargo Foundation seeded the fund with $170,000, and UWSN President and CEO Kyle Rahn said she expected much more to flow into it in the near future. The organization currently lists 13 nonprofits that it’s working with to provide community members with food, housing, and mortgage or rent assistance. The list of those, with contact information, is here. Donations to the fund can be made online at uwsn.org/donate or by texting "UWSNFUND" to 313131.

Rahn stressed that United Way of Southern Nevada allocates emergency funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s food and shelter program, and that it vets the community organizations it works with, sending detailed reports of how funding is used to FEMA. Bank of America is covering fees and expenses for the COVID-19 program, so that 100 percent of donations can go straight to the community.

“After 1 Oct, we came together — government agencies, nonprofits, and private partners pulled together,” said Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones at the press conference announcing the UWSN Emergency Assistance and Community Needs Fund. “That’s what we need now, to show that we’re Vegas Strong and we can get through this.”

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