Published On: May 19th, 2020

Last week, I was inspired by an application to our Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund. A father of three working fewer hours due to the pandemic was concerned about paying rent and buying food for his family. In his application he said: If you know of someone who has more need, please offer this opportunity to them.

Just as this pandemic has laid bare the fragility of our neighbors and the economic and social inequities in our city, it’s also shown how generous and resilient our community can be.

To date, the Cambridge Community Foundation has given cash grants to 867 individuals, families, and artists who live, work, or study in our city. An unusual and unprecedented move for the Foundation, making individual cash transfers is a demonstration of our trust and respect for families, who take the power of spending decisions into their own hands. More than 50 other foundations and nonprofits nationwide also turned to cash grants to help people navigate the pressures caused by COVID-19.

Through our grantmaking we’ve seen that nearly every one of us is vulnerable—some disproportionately so. Our grantees include laid-off taxi and Uber drivers, home-schooling single mothers, small business owners, restaurant workers, artists, and even million-dollar homeowners struggling with their mortgages due to sudden, unexpected loss of income. The pressures of unemployment and paying for housing, food, medicine, and education are common themes.

We know our one-time cash grants can only go so far. As we pivot from relief to recovery, we need to take a long, hard look at repositioning our community. Given our city’s size and resources—a compassionate local government, world-class universities, nonprofits offering social services, and our innovators, creators, and businesses—we should be able to solve the problems we face.

So let’s work together in partnership to innovate solutions, preserve what we love, and bring about the change we want to see in Cambridge.

Geeta Pradhan

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