As Financial Assistance Programs Expire, Philanthropy Can Help Maintain Funding Momentum for Human Services
As increased vaccination rates for COVID-19 in the United States allowed local economies to re-open, many federally funded programs helping millions of people stay afloat are set to expire. Temporary increases to unemployment and SNAP benefits will end in September; many states have already returned funding for those programs to pre-pandemic levels. A pause on payments and interest for federally backed student loans will end in early 2022. Federal eviction moratoriums and mortgage forbearance programs have been temporarily extended, but even now less than 7% of rental assistance funds set aside by the federal government has made it to people in need of the aid.
Taken together, this means millions of households could be facing significant financial hardship in the coming months, despite the easing of some pandemic restrictions. Donors have an opportunity to fill the gap left by government programs by supporting human service organizations, who provide direct aid to those in need.
Below are just a few of the hundreds of organizations doing important work in direct cash aid, public benefit support, housing, food security and more.
- Direct cash payments to people in need can have a significant impact. This model gives families and individuals the autonomy and flexibility to determine how best to put the money to use. GiveDirectly is a national organization that sends money directly to those in need across the United States and in the developing world. Its Project 100+ has helped nearly 185,000 families since the start of the pandemic. UpTogether also delivers direct cash payments but does so via a community-building model. The organization has found that social support is an important factor to maximize the economic benefits of their program, resulting in a ripple effect from individuals to families to their larger communities.
- Benefits Data Trust estimates that millions of families who are entitled to public benefits each year, such as SNAP or WIC (food and nutrition benefits), do not enroll. The organization works in six states to connect those who are in need of—and entitled to—services and benefits to the resources that can help them weather financial challenges.
- Homelessness, a major issue even before the pandemic, could become a greater crisis in the next few months if federal mortgage forbearance programs and eviction moratoriums are not again extended. The National Alliance to End Homelessness provides advocacy, education, capacity building, support services and focuses on efforts to re-house at-risk individuals and families as quickly as possible.
- Food banks have seen a significant increase in the number of people seeking out meals in the last year, many of whom experiencing food insecurity for the first time. Feeding America operates a nationwide network of more than 200 local food banks, providing food to children and adults through a variety of programs tailored to their communities. Meals on Wheels America is another national meal provider, focused on delivering food and social support to senior citizens. The organization operates a network of more than 5,000 local programs which can offer additional services to its clients including minor home repairs, transportation to medical appointments and pet food delivery.
- As children go back to school this fall, many for the first time in over a year, classrooms and teachers are likely to need additional supplies, such as PPE. DonorsChoose is an organization that allows donors to directly support classroom needs around the country. They have found that teachers expect to primarily need technology resources, books, and even basic supplies for their students.
- After such a challenging year on so many levels, many are struggling with mental health concerns. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, provides a wealth of educational resources, public policy advocacy and a hotline connecting people to information and support. With more than 600 local affiliates, donors can also choose to support a chapter close to home.
- For donors interested in supporting those in need in their own communities, community foundations can also be an excellent resource. Many foundations have established COVID-19 relief funds which continue to support local nonprofits helping those in need.
The pandemic and its economic shock created unprecedented need among Americans. It magnified existing disparities and inequalities. But it also brought to light how vitally important the work of the human services sector is in keeping Americans afloat. DAF donors responded with generosity, increasing grants to human services organizations by 78% over the previous year. We encourage our donors to keep the generosity going as the country proceeds into safer, but still uncertain times.
As always, NPT stands ready to help you help others. Contact us at (888) 878-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Joan Allmaras is a Philanthropic Services Specialist at NPT. She produces tailored, in-depth research on specific issues and geographic areas of interest to NPT’s donors. Ms. Allmaras holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
NPT is not affiliated with any of the organizations described herein, and the inclusion of any organization in this material should not be considered an endorsement by NPT of such organization, or its services or products.
NPT does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be, and shall not be relied upon as, legal or tax advice. The applicability of information contained here may vary depending on individual circumstances.