The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, which has received 1,000 grant requests since it was launched 52 days ago, had already distributed more than $4 million to help food pantries, shelters, healthcare and mental health agencies and more, Founding Chairwoman Tammy Murphy said Friday.
Initially, the fund was primarily focused on what the first lady called “survival needs” and prioritized grant applications that sought assistance for food, shelter and medical care. Now the fund is looking to identify other opportunities beyond basic survival to help get the state on its feet again.
“Going forward, the fund is shifting its approach from solely accepting grant applications to more proactively identifying opportunities to address the fund’s five focus areas, which are food, health, shelter, education, and economic resilience,” Murphy said during an NJBIA webcast Friday.
“Food security is still an ongoing issue, but our ultimate trajectory will be to help our state bounce back across the entire scope of problems that the COVID-19 crisis has caused,” Murphy said.
For example, thousands of students’ educational needs are not being met because they don’t own electronic devices that would allow them to participate in remote classroom learning while schools are shut down, Murphy said. Also, people who have lost jobs and can no longer use public library computers to search online for employment are in a difficult position without internet access.
“There’s a lot of families that don’t have technology,” Murphy said. “There’s a dire need across the state for something like 80,000 electronic devices.”
Murphy said that going forward the fund also wanted to focus on ways to help people who are in “the most tenuous of situations” because they have lost their jobs and have no income.
To date, the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund has raised over $30 million in donations, including more than $5.9 million from the “Jersey 4 Jersey” broadcast, a televised fundraiser featuring Hollywood and music stars with New Jersey roots who shared songs and inspirational messages. Murphy called it a “virtual hug” for the state, including the small business community hurt by the COVID-19 crisis.
“I know I don’t need to tell you that small businesses have been hit hard,” Murphy told the webcast listeners. “I know some of you on this call are struggling and concerned … not just how will your business come back, but if it will come back. Please know that you’re not alone in this endeavor and we are going to be working very hard and doing all we can to offer as much support as possible.”
Administrative costs for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund are being covered by the generosity of a board member, so every dollar raised goes directly toward providing relief to those in need, Murphy said. Grant applications, as well as information on how to donate money or needed products for the relief effort, can be found on the fund’s website at www.njprf.org.
“I think everyone understands that the needs are enormous,” Murphy said. “But when we all come together we can really move mountains. I know these are challenging times, but we absolutely will get through this together.”
To watch the entire webcast, go here.