Stocked food pantries in Alaska communities. Relief for artists, iPads for rural students and childcare for healthcare workers and first responders. An Alaska coordinator for PPE — personal protective equipment.

Those are a few of the specifics being supported by Rasmuson Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. In April, our board committed $2 million to address the pandemic and we have spent about half. We also are redirecting dollars to better serve Alaska in this time like no other. Counting redirected funds, we have spent more than $1.7 million for COVID-19 response as of June 12. At the same time, our own assets have plummeted by tens of millions due to disruptions in the financial markets and in the real estate and energy sectors.

Our latest grants in response to the pandemic are being made in partnership with the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and Atwood Foundation. Artists experiencing a dire financial emergency as a result of the pandemic are being invited to apply for a $1,500 Alaska Arts and Culture Emergency Relief Grant before June 30. Applications opened this week and can be found here. Artists are among the hardest hit workers in America with the closure of theaters, galleries and museums. Many gig workers also work part-time in the restaurant/entertainment sector, also closed down, and as adjunct professors — the first to be laid off in tough financial times. Few have retirement savings, and many are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Our emergency funds target the most serious and immediate needs, especially those not being addressed by other funding sources. We also look to support efforts that leverage dollars from other funders. Download here: our COVID-19 response grants to date.

The spending includes $160,000 for local foundations stretching from Utqiaġvik to Bethel to Seward. Each of 16 community foundations connected to The Alaska Community Foundation as an affiliate or partner received $10,000 to provide fast help for food, protective equipment, telehealth and other essentials.

In Fairbanks, the Golden Heart Community Foundation awarded grants to the local food bank for Bone Builders, which focuses on the needs of hungry children; the Salvation Army for food, personal care kits and rental assistance; and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for masks and community outreach. The Sitka Legacy Foundation split its award between Alaska Sustainable Fisheries, which provides locally caught fish to families in need, and a health coalition that is providing care kits for those who have tested positive for the virus and supplies for businesses such as no-touch thermometers, masks and signs. Learn more here about the relief in other communities with affiliated foundations: Cordova, Haines, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Palmer, Petersburg, Seward and Talkeetna. Five more, the partner communities of Bethel, Chugiak-Eagle River, Homer, Juneau and Utqiagvik, also received awards to provide direct help.

Other highlights include:

  • $250,000 to support arts and culture organizations impacted by the pandemic by providing municipalities with matching dollars for their own allocation of federal COVID relief funds.
  • $75,000 to support the coordination of personal protective equipment, or PPE, needs of nonprofits with suppliers of PPE including state or municipal emergency operating centers and Alaska manufacturers. The project will be housed at the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Health in partnership with the UAA Business Enterprise Institute and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.
  • $50,000 to the Alaska Coalition for Housing and Homelessness to add to $70,000 from the National Low Income Housing Coalition for housing mini-grants in rural Alaska. In Kodiak, Brother Francis Shelter was able to help people with rent and utilities and support a housing assistance coordinator. In Sitka, homeless youths received cell phones and an outreach group received funds to help with rent, utilities and emergency shelter.
  • Up to $50,000 in a partnership with the state Department of Education and Early Development to fund iPads for students in rural communities to better connect them with their virtual schools.
  • Two awards for childcare: $25,000 to Camp Fire Alaska to fund care for children of first responders and healthcare workers and $75,000 to thread, a statewide education and advocacy organization, to help ensure enough childcare for those workers.
  • Up to $25,000 for the Girl Scouts of Alaska to purchase from the stockpile of unsold cookies as a result of COVID-19. The cookies are being delivered on June 19 to the Food Bank of Alaska for distribution across the state.
A temporary shelter at Sullivan Arena is seen in March 2020 as the pandemic upended normal operations across the world. (Photo by Matt Waliszek)

A large portion of our redirected dollars, $425,000, came from our homelessness initiative, and it is still supporting that work, refocused for the pandemic. A navigator is being housed at a new temporary Resource Hub outside the Sullivan Arena shelter to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to services and permanent housing. (A second navigator is being funded by our partner, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.) Catholic Social Services is receiving funds to rapidly rehouse 50 single adults who have been staying in a shelter. In the first five weeks, 18 individuals were housed. A partnership with Providence Health & Services Alaska and the Mental Health Trust is helping dozens more shop for apartments. And AWAIC, or Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis, has received a small grant to ensure safe shelter operations during this time of social isolation.

We continue to support AK Can Do, the statewide COVID-19 relief fund that is a partnership between The Alaska Community Foundation and United Way of Anchorage. Besides growing funds helping neighbors and agencies on the frontlines, we are covering marketing and administrative costs so all other donations go 100 percent for help. So far, $2.4 million has been raised. Through United Way of Anchorage, 522 households with 1,576 individuals have received help with essentials such as rent, food and utilities. In addition, 25 nonprofit organizations spread around Alaska have received grants. Food pantries, domestic violence shelters, and homelessness service providers all have benefited. A second round of grant awards will be announced next week. Download here: AK Can Do round one grants.

Major donors to AK Can Do include Rasmuson Foundation, at $410,000; M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, $250,000; ConocoPhillips, $200,000; W.K. Kellogg Foundation, $150,000; Sealaska, $120,000; Wells Fargo, $115,000; The Alaska Community Foundation, $100,000; and an anonymous individual, $100,000. Other donors include Afognak, Alaska Airlines, Alaska National Insurance Company, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, CVS, Doyon Ltd., Key Bank Foundation, KPMG, Northrim Bank, Perkins Coie Foundation, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Rotary District 510, Saltchuk, Law Offices of Jacob Sonneborn, Veterans United Foundation, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and several more charitable family funds. Spawn, a media and marketing firm, donated its services and GCI provided public service announcements. More than 1,000 individual donations have helped to grow the fund.