Community Health During COVID-19

Today, especially, it is important for us to continue doing all we can to support the health and well-being of all those in the Bay Area.

While there have been international public health emergencies before — some even within our lifetimes — the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the even more rapid spread of information and misinformation makes this a special cause for caution. How, we ask ourselves, can we respond most appropriately?

Our goals are not only to safeguard ourselves, but also to protect the literal and figurative health of our grantee partners and the communities in which they work.

Caring for Ourselves

In consultation with our foundation peers, we’ve established some protocols outlining how we, as an organization, will respond to this health emergency. While we welcome you to read the whole document, the gist is that we have strategically increased our vigilance against illness. At the most basic level, we’ve asked our staff to stay home if they suspect they may have been exposed to COVID-19, or if they feel even slightly unwell.

To encourage this extra care, we’ve added significant flexibility to our sick leave policy — we don’t want anyone to feel pressure to come in to work because they lack (or fear they will later lack) needed sick days. The health of the community is more important.

Our protocols further recommend increased hygiene vigilance, such as hand washing following travel on public transportation, and substituting greetings that don’t risk transmission for handshakes. For the time being, virtual meetings are preferable to in-person sessions, and when that’s not possible, we’ve asked staff to keep meeting attendance to a minimum. We’re also encouraging employees to prepare for remote work and to avoid travel to any impacted region.

Caring for Grantee Partners

Clearly, this international health emergency will affect us all in numerous ways over the coming weeks and perhaps months. We hope we all remain well, and that this period of instability passes quickly, but we accept that many previously solid plans will be disrupted by the repercussions of COVID-19.

For some of our grantee partners, this may mean facing an inability to meet reporting requirements or objectives in 2020. If your organization looks like it will be affected, we want to hear about the specific challenges you’re addressing so that we can help. Our relationship with you and the work you do is more important than your strict adherence to your grant agreement. We are relaxing expectations in terms of grant outcomes and are committed to remaining flexible in order to prioritize community needs as this situation unfolds.

We encourage grantees to use our funding to continue to pay your staff as normal, even if your work is disrupted or delayed.

Should COVID-19 response disrupt your work or your organization’s ability to operate as planned, your Walter and Elise Haas Fund program officer is within reach. Reach out by phone or email and let us know what you’re facing and how we can adapt together.

To those of our nonprofit partners who planned events and conferences that now need to be cancelled, to minimize the negative financial impact, our general policy, with some exceptions, will be to allow the organizing organization to retain the Fund’s registration fees as a donation, and to not request a refund.

Caring for the Community

The Fund has long supported the community through our Safety Net funding, which invests in organizations on the front lines of responding every day to residents who are in crisis. Moreover, the Fund has specifically invested in programs and services that help our local community prepare for local disasters.

Today’s COVID-19 outbreak further emphasizes the importance of community care and worker protections. A strand of Fund grantmaking has long promoted sound policies such as paid family leave, portable benefits, and the implementation of California Assembly Bill 5, which stipulates employees must be treated as such instead of as independent contractors.

By setting up and defending policies that keep the community and country prepared for emergencies like the one we now face, we’ll all be safer, healthier, and stronger.

We hope you all are well, and stay well.

Jamie Allison

Blog, News

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