In this time of unprecedented need, it has been heartwarming to see people coming together to support one another unlike any other time. In the wake of COVID-19, Berkshire Bank Foundation knew there would be a great deal of hardship in all of our communities. As a result, we immediately took steps to access funds to support regional collaborative efforts that were responding to that need. And, while supporting these efforts is crucial, especially in this current environment, it is just as important to continue our regular grant programming, as non-profits are finding it difficult to raise funds to continue operating and delivering essential services. As a result, we have continued with our customary grant programming, while also committing $1 million to support the COVID-19 response efforts in each of the ten major regions that we serve.
As part of this, we supported efforts to respond to immediate needs, such as food insecurity, child care gaps, assistance for homeless populations, etc. However, we felt it is just as important to support the small businesses that fuel the economic engines of the communities in which we operate. Consequentially, the Foundation is also supporting programs that provide grant funding to small businesses to help them sustain through this crisis.
Our Foundation’s primary focus is to help close the wealth gap and support those who have been underrepresented, with particular attention to organizations that offer opportunities to Black, Latinx, Women and LGBTQ-owned businesses. Unfortunately, studies have shown that this crisis has affected underserved and low-income populations at disproportionate levels. While the virus itself does not discriminate, the circumstances that contribute to an individual’s underlying health conditions, access to adequate health care, and income and housing insecurities certainly does.
The following funds are those that Berkshire has supported in our effort to counteract some of the devastating effects that COVID-19 will have on our communities.
- 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance Foundation COVID-19 Fund for Business
- Arlington Food Shelf, Inc. COVID-19 Virus Emergency Fund
- Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation COVID-19 Fund for Columbia County
- Berkshire United Way COVID-19 Response Fund
- Black Economic Council of Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Fund
- Black River Good Neighbor Services, Inc. COVID-19 Relief Fund
- Boston Charitable Trust Boston Resiliency Fund COVID-19
- Centerstate Corporation for Economic Opportunity COVID-19 Fund
- Central New York Community Foundation, Inc. COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- City of Worcester COVID-19 Small Business Resiliency Fund
- Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut COVID-19 Neighbors for Neighbors Fund
- Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, Inc. COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- Greater Worcester Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- Mohawk Valley EDGE COVID-19 Fund
- Mohawk Valley Small Business Development Center COVID-19 Fund
- New Jersey Community Capital COVID-19 Response Fund for Business
- North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation COVID-19 Fund for Business
- The Boston Foundation COVID-19 Business Equity Fund
- The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc. COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- The Massachusetts LGBT Business Network, Inc. COVID-19 Support Fund
- United Way of Central & Northeastern CT COVID-19 Response Fund
- United Way of Rhode Island COVID-19 Emergency Fund
While these efforts are responding to the immediate needs resulting from COVID-19, we know that the impact will persist for some time to come, and communities and small businesses will need to reimagine their operational structure to adapt to this evolving environment. As they work through this, we have continued to support their programming — especially as it fits within our priority areas. As such, to date, we have provided an additional $1 million to support programs in the areas of:
- Providing access to resources for underserved populations to become college, career and job ready and to contribute to the economic vitality in their communities
- Providing access to quality affordable housing options that meet the evolving needs of our communities
- Promoting and supporting small business growth and entrepreneurship, especially for underrepresented populations
- Providing opportunities for education and dialogue around the contributing factors to the wealth divide and what efforts might help reverse it
Collaboration and partnerships will be key to the sustainability of non-profits going forward. Berkshire Bank Foundation stands ready to support our communities as we navigate this new normal together.
Lori Gazzillo Kiely
SVP, Foundation Director