United Way of the Coastal Empire Distributes Over $300K to Provide Relief

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, United Way of the Coastal Empire has distributed $318,050 of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, helping 787 friends and neighbors in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty Counties to date. The greatest needs have been for food and housing. With partner agencies most directly addressing food insecurity, housing then accounts for 84 percent of the fund distribution to date.

So far, United Way has received more than $550,000 in donations since the pandemic began. “We asked for our community's support, and you responded, demonstrating great generosity and sincere concern for our neighbors experiencing the most severe impacts. For that, we thank you!” said United Way Board Chair Larry Silbermann, Vice President and General Manager of WTOC-TV.

Every dollar of this fund is being distributed to help individuals and families retain stable housing by assisting with rent, mortgage, and utility payments when grace periods are not offered and to provide financial assistance for additional critical needs such as medical expenses and child care. Additionally, we are providing emergency funding to United Way’s partner agencies with a demonstrated increase in demand for services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We realize there is more to be done,” added Brynn Grant, President and CEO of United Way of the Coastal Empire. “In our four-county region, nearly 120,000 individuals and families were living paycheck to paycheck with no reserves even before the pandemic. Many of these hard-working individuals had two or three jobs to make ends meet. They make more than the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to cover a bare-bones household budget. The cost of living outpaces their earning ability. And now, many have lost some or all of their income. Our goal is to help prevent those most at risk from falling into homelessness so they are healthier, safer, and more likely to be able to step back into employment and thrive again when this crisis passes.”

Additional fund distributions have included:

$26,000 grant to the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System to purchase 115 Chromebooks for students in schools with the highest levels of poverty to help bridge the technology gap that limits access to learning, and

$12,500 in awards to United Way partner agencies in support of increased emergency food and shelter costs, case management and translation services, technology to provide remote crisis counseling, and increased health and safety personnel for a youth summer program.

Any funds remaining after the pandemic will be allocated to the United Way's general emergency relief fund.  The emergency relief fund allows the organization to respond immediately to critical, emerging needs like those surrounding a hurricane or natural disaster.

Through the United Way 211 helpline and its community service center in Bryan, Effingham, and Liberty Counties, United Way has been connecting residents with resources that can help them through struggles related to COVID-19. Since March 24, the organization has received more than 24,500 calls – 20 times the amount of calls from the prior month.

To assist as many callers as possible, United Way expanded its 211 call center hours, cross-trained its staff, and partnered with nearly 20 volunteers from United Way funded agencies to help process requests for assistance. The call center is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 5 pm.