Spokane philanthropic and government leaders announced on Wednesday a multimillion dollar charitable initiative intended to help the region respond to the mounting challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone in Washington state has been impacted by COVID in some way, whether it’s us personally, whether it’s our neighbors, family members, or we all have been impacted or know someone who has been impacted,” said Shelly O’Quinn, chief executive officer of the Innovia Foundation, which is leading the statewide philanthropic effort locally. “And this is a way that we can have a collaborative coordinated statewide effort. That’s community giving back to support communities.”
Called All In Washington, the statewide effort will match philanthropic dollars donated with pledged funds from Amazon owner and billionaire Jeff Bezos up to $25 million. Those dollars are intended to help make up “gaps” in other funding sources, including government grants and loans, that may come with time or use restrictions, said Aaron McMurray, chief strategy officer at Innovia.
“We recognize this could go on for months,” McMurray said. “This is an infusion that allows this fund to have legs and to continue to invest in recovery and community resiliency.”
Spokane County has been holding off on spending its allotment of federal money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES, Act, Congress’ largest package of assistance to date to local governments to manage the crisis, because it has fewer strings attached than other sources of money, Commissioner Al French said.
The type of private, philanthropic dollars that can be raised through the All In campaign will help supplement that federal assistance and allow the region to address short-term needs with the money available and keep some funds in reserve for future needs.
“You need to cover not only the immediate pandemic impacts, but you also need to be prepared for the potential resurgence in the fall,” French said.
Spokane County has polled the community on how it would suggest spending its $90 million allotment from the federal government, and the responses focused on rental and food assistance, as well as help for the county’s smallest businesses that may have been overlooked or didn’t apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans through the federal government.
Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said the initiative will enable the Innovia Foundation to continue to support small businesses and communities that have been historically underserved through government assistance. She cited recent relief given through Innovia to the Carl Maxey Center to support local businesses with black owners, as well as donations to support black churches and Hispanic professionals in the community, as examples of the type of work that would continue with philanthropic support.
“Giving the money to those who are doing the work and getting those barriers out of the way, especially for communities of color, because they’re not the ones who traditionally are funded,” Wilkerson said. “They’re still getting left behind.”
A survey by the Global Strategy Group, a New York-based public relations and polling firm, found earlier this month that only 12% of minority-owned businesses that applied for assistance received what they asked for, compared to 38% of all businesses in a similar Census Bureau survey.
The matching funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, so Innovia is urging those considering giving to assist in the crisis to do so while matching dollars are available to maximize their impact.
“Five dollars turns into 10. Twenty turns into 40,” O’Quinn said. “A hundred thousand turns into $200,000. It doesn’t matter the size of the contribution, everyone can give back to their community.”
That money, once collected, will be allocated based on need, and funding decisions will be made by a volunteer group of more than 100 people representing various community interests, O’Quinn said.
Spokane leaders hung a banner from the tower of the historic county courthouse just before noon Wednesday to announce the fundraising initiative. Similar banners were also hung in Olympia, Seattle, Yakima, Vancouver and Bellingham.
Innovia announced it already had received $275,000 in seed money from local businesses to help kickstart the effort in Spokane. Those donations came from Avista Corp., Washington Trust Bank, Numerica Credit Union and the Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review. Innovia, a community foundation, coordinates charitable giving to several area nonprofits, businesses and other organizations. Its clients include The Spokesman-Review.
All In Washington organizers announced a planned virtual concert to help raise money for the effort on June 10. The lineup includes Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Macklemore, Sir-Mix-a-Lot and Ben Gibbard, lead singer of groups including Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service. The Amazon-produced concert will be streamed live on the internet with a full lineup to be announced at a later date.
Those interested in donating during the initiative may do so at innovia.org/COVID19.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.