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Direct Relief Creates $25 Million Covid-19 Response Fund for Community Health

With health providers working overtime to keep patients safe, fund aims to support staff and operations.

Staff at Ubi Caritas Free Clinic in Beaumont, Texas, with Direct Relief donated protective gear. Safety-net health providers across the United States are working overtime during the Covid-19 pandemic to provide patient care to the most vulnerable, and new stream of funding will support their essential work. (Courtesy photo)
Staff at Ubi Caritas Free Clinic in Beaumont, Texas, with Direct Relief donated protective gear. Safety-net health providers across the United States are working overtime during the Covid-19 pandemic to provide patient care to the most vulnerable, and new stream of funding will support their essential work. (Courtesy photo)

Direct Relief today announced the establishment of the Covid-19 Fund for Community Health with a $25 million initial infusion to support healthcare workers’ safety and the essential services they provide at America’s safety-net community health centers and clinics. More than 30 million of the country’s most vulnerable residents rely on these local nonprofit providers for health care– over 65 percent of whom are members of ethnic and racial minority groups.

The funds will be disbursed to community health centers, free & charitable clinics and pharmacies, and other non-profit health providers in Direct Relief’s partner network, which includes thousands of community-run nonprofit health facilities in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

The Covid-19 Fund for Community Health is anchored by a $10 million contribution announced today by lead sponsor 3M, a portion of whose gift to Direct Relief will be used for the organization’s international efforts to address the pandemic.

“Since the outbreak began, 3M has addressed the Covid-19 pandemic from all angles and across all stakeholders, and this includes supporting our community partners like Direct Relief,” said 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman. “Throughout this global crisis, 3M will continue to look for ways to help in the fight against Covid-19.”

Also, entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Team Love Initiative organized a celebrity dance-a-thon on Easter Sunday with proceeds going to Direct Relief. CÎROC and Diageo kicked off the Dance-A-Thon by donating the first $1,000,000. One major intended use of the funds is to help community health providers in cities that have seen high Covid-19 fatality rates among African Americans, such as Detroit, New Orleans and New York City.

“Covid-19 has affected communities across the country, but especially communities of color,” said Sean “Diddy” Combs. “The Team Love dance-a-thon gave us a chance to not only bring people together during these challenging times, but also raise funds to support our heroes working on the front lines. This partnership we’ve established with Direct Relief will allow us to continue to address the effects this terrible disease has on our most vulnerable communities.”

The fund will support healthcare workers and facilities facing unexpected costs due to the coronavirus pandemic and complement the extensive ongoing emergency deliveries of PPE and other essential health products that Direct Relief has already furnished to health facilities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico in the past month and will continue. It will also support the protection and safety of health workers, telehealth service expansion, Covid-19 screening and testing, and expanding support to people who are extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 including the homeless and elderly.

The largest group of beneficiaries of the fund will be the network of Federally Qualified Health Centers, local non-profit community health providers serving 29 million (1 in 11) U.S. residents, including 1 in 3 individuals living in poverty, 1 in 5 Medicaid beneficiaries, 1 in 5 rural Americans and 1 in 9 children.

“These funds will provide some of the essential resources that community health center workers desperately need on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers. “They are practicing medicine under difficult circumstances and with tremendous courage and innovation, converting their facilities, launching testing sites and expanding telehealth screening. They are also reaching out to vulnerable populations who disproportionately suffer higher illness and mortality rates from the virus. We do not know for certain how long this pandemic will last, but what is certain is that primary care and health centers are critical to the national response.”

The fund will also support free and charitable clinics and pharmacies, which operate 1,400 service locations and serve 2 million patients who are among the most vulnerable members of U.S. society.

As one of the first disbursements from the fund, Direct Relief will donate an additional $1 million to the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, building on the $1 million donated earlier in April.

“Self-initiated, voluntary acts of leadership and generosity – both from corporate leaders such as 3M and on a personal level as exemplified by Team Love and its captain Diddy Combs – are such a powerful example of stepping up, pulling together, and making sure that the courage of healthworkers on the front lines is honored with meaningful support, and that the people most at risk in this pandemic are cared for,” said Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief President and CEO. “Direct Relief is able to launch this effort only because those with the most prominent voices have used them to support those whose voices are often not heard.”

Since 2017, Direct Relief has provided more than $650 million to U.S. safety-net health providers in the form of donated medicine and medical supplies.

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