A boost for basic needs providers

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ESL Charitable Foundation has come to Rochester’s aid once more, this time with a $4 million grant to the United Way of Greater Rochester. The funds target basic needs programs and services.

Last October, the foundation donated $5 million in an innovation grant to empower individuals in need.

Supporting 20 local health and human services agencies that offer these programs, the monies will fund emergency services, legal assistance, community partnerships, and housing and shelter.

Basic needs providers have been pushed to the breaking point under COVID-19, observes Jaime Saunders, president and CEO of United Way. In a press conference today at Ibero-American Action League, she urged the community to come together to help those in need.

The coronavirus pandemic has upped the demand for services, forcing many to seek assistance. Calls for help to 2-1-1 LIFE LINE, Rochester’s information and referral hotline, have tripled since March, United Way says. More than 60 percent of these calls were for food, housing and shelter, when in 2019, fewer than 28 percent of requests were for basic needs. Calls for food are up twentyfold.  

“This community that we love has given us so much and ESL has a duty to step up and help Greater Rochester,” said Faheem Masood, president and CEO of ESL Federal Credit Union. “We say that our purpose is ‘to help our community thrive and prosper,’ and that cannot and will not be possible if we are not doing our part to contribute to uplifting the health and resiliency of critical agencies that provide essential services to thousands of individuals and families.”

He pointed to the sense of urgency to ensure the nonprofits that help with basic needs continue their work. 

“ESL is in a fortunate position; we can help, we are ready to help, and we are going to help,” Masood said.

The impact of COVID-19 on the poor is sobering. Last month, a United Nations report noted that the pandemic is “reversing decades of progress” on poverty, health care and education. An estimated 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty this year, the first rise in global poverty since 1998, the report states.

Poverty is inextricably linked to the demand for basic needs and services. When the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative began to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the community, food was listed as the top concern, followed by housing and health care, when it came to basic needs. 

Source: RMAPI

Several organizations, Foodlink among them, continue their efforts to feed the hungry. Rochester Mutual Aid Network, which delivers supplies regularly, a few days ago noted it handed out 59 food packages from Flower City Pickers. The previous week that tally was 57. Facebook groups like COVID-19 Rochester New York Food Relief meet daily requests.

ESL Charitable Foundation’s gift will increase the capacity to feed and house more in Rochester.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. All coronavirus articles are collected here.

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