Washington State’s Equity Relief Fund awards nearly $12 million to 358 nonprofits statewide

According to a report, recent data show communities of color in Washington state are experiencing disproportionately higher percentages of COVID cases and economic impact.

“Several demographic groups have case and hospitalization rates from seven to 10 times higher than for white people, and death rates twice to over three times higher. Additionally, analysis by region indicates this is true across rural, urban and suburban communities.”

Bolstering ongoing efforts to distribute COVID relief funds equitably to the communities hardest hit by the pandemic, the Department of Commerce partnered with Philanthropy Northwest to award $11.85 million in grants from the Washington Equity Relief Fund for Nonprofits to 358 organizations statewide led by and serving Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities. Nonprofits provide the primary link to many crucial lifeline services in all communities, and many have been financially devastated by the pandemic.

Find the complete list of recipients, locations and grant amounts here.

Over 100 community peer reviewers met in small groups to discuss and score the Washington Equity Relief grant applications and provide recommendations to Philanthropy Northwest. Nearly all of these individuals identified as BIPOC, with more than three-quarters having lived experience with poverty, over half identifying with rural areas and more than one third with immigrant or refugee communities. The group represented all 39 counties in Washington. Final decisions were made in collaboration with Commerce.

Nonprofits themselves, particularly BIPOC organizations, are reeling from the impact of COVID. National reporting shows historical inequities in funding that have deepened as they try to navigate pandemic response and recovery. Locally, a University of Washington study found Washington nonprofits have experienced an average drop in total revenue of nearly 30% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with declines in total revenue projected to continue over the next year by an average of 16%. At the same time, demand on these and other health and human services organizations is up nearly 30%.

“It is imperative that we step up to support these trusted and much-needed organizations operated by and serving BIPOC communities. It is equally important that these communities lead the decision-making on how to prioritize these funds,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “The people served by these lifeline organizations face disproportionately higher rates of COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths. At the same time the need for services goes up, these nonprofits are fighting to survive because the donations and local resources they depend on have dried up.”

Brown noted this funding just scratches the surface of need, as nearly 1,000 organizations applied for grants, totaling more than $40 million in requests.

Individual competitive grants range from $25,000 to $50,000. Of the 358 awards, 273 went to extremely small organizations that have annual budgets under $250,000. Nine $75,000 grants were awarded to organizations in rural Washington for their high-performance work, limited community resources and the higher impacts of COVID in their communities.

Commerce and Philanthropy Northwest targeted allocations by region to equitably support communities experiencing higher health and economic impacts of COVID-19 while ensuring funding in every county across the state:

  • King County – over $2.5 million
  • Northeast region – over $2 million
  • Southeast region – $2 million
  • Northwest region – $1.5 million
  • South Puget Sound region – $1.7 million
  • Southwest region – $1.7 million

In addition, Philanthropy Northwest partnered with Potlatch Fund to provide $225,000 for non-federally recognized Tribes in Washington and support Potlatch Fund serving Indigenous communities.

“Despite the substantial funding pool from the Washington Department of Commerce, the available funding only covers about 30 percent of the nearly $40 million in applicant requests. But we had 104 community reviewers committed to making careful, tough decisions. The majority of these reviewers are from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, many with their own life experience and understanding of living in poverty and/or in rural areas. On behalf of these community reviewers and in partnership with the Department of Commerce, we are honored to award this money to 358 BIPOC non-profit organizations throughout Washington,” said Anjana Pandey, Executive Vice President at Philanthropy Northwest.

Gov. Jay Inslee directed state CARES Act funds to the Department of Commerce to help with COVID-19 relief efforts across Washington.

The agency is distributing more than $800 million in CARES Act funding in support of local governments, tribes, nonprofits, housing relief and business recovery.