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Kresge grants $2.6 million to organizations confronting COVID-19 in Detroit, New Orleans and Memphis

American Cities, Arts & Culture, COVID-19, Detroit, Education, Environment, Health, Human Services, Social Investment Practice

Foundation also waives $1M in interest payments for 6 months on active PRIs


The Kresge Foundation announced a combined $2.6 million in grants in Detroit, New Orleans and Memphis in a round of funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.

Among other uses, $1.55 million in Detroit grant funding will support emergency relief efforts for people and families impacted by the virus. In New Orleans, grants totaling $600,000 will support nonprofit organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness, senior populations and low-wage workers. And in Memphis, grants totaling $485,000 will also assist nonprofits to continue to serve impacted residents as well as musicians and other artists in the community.

The foundation also announced that it is waiving all interest payments on its portfolio of program-related investments for six months, generating about $1 million in relief on 41 active loans.

“The COVID-19 pandemic calls for constructive acts of community building, kindness, and generosity as we work to flatten to curve and as we lay the groundwork for the reconstruction of our communities in the pandemic’s aftermath,” said Kresge President Rip Rapson.

“Across our foundation, every program and department is in communication with partners across the country to find where we can bring our leverage best to bear to halt the spread of this virus and abate devastating health and economic impacts. At the same time, we look to support and strengthen the nonprofit ecosystems of American cities, with particular attention to efforts that are rooted in the communities they serve. These grants in our hometown and our focus cities, New Orleans and Memphis, are the first in a series of grants to quickly and efficiently support relief efforts grounded in each place.”

“Philanthropy often serves society by working a patient, long-term role. We’ve leveraged our resources for years to spur the revitalization in our hometown of Detroit, for instance, and worked to spread the energy of revitalization throughout city neighborhoods,” Rapson said. “This health and economic crisis compels, instead, an immediate response. It is our ardent hope that we can contribute to saving lives, jobs, and organizations.”

In Detroit, the new grants will support:

  •  $1,025,000 to the United Way of Southeastern Michigan’s fund for emergency relief to families and individuals. That fund supports community-based organizations providing emergency relief to populations including seniors, children and low-income families.
  • $200,000 will go to the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan’s (CFSEM) Health COVID-19 Relief Fund. This fund supports urgent health-related needs in the areas of testing, lab processing, and tracking for healthcare entities and high-risk groups in southeast Michigan.
  • $200,000 to CFSEM for CultureSource-led programs, services and partnerships to support the Southeastern Michigan arts and culture sector. This includes sharing of resources and collection of data to understand the challenges to the sector.
  • $125,000 for Wayne Metro Community Action Agency for emergency residential plumbing repairs allowing water to be reconnected

In New Orleans, grants will support:

In Memphis, grants will support:

  • $300,000 to the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis to provide flexible, rapid-response funding to nonprofits serving people impacted by COVID-19 and its economic consequences; the Response Fund will also support the nonprofit sector’s recovery and resilience.
  • $100,000 to ArtsMemphis COVID-19 Artist Emergency Fund which provides grants of up to $500 for self-employed artists who have lost income due to event cancellations and other lost opportunities.
  • $85,000 to the COVID-19 Musician Relief Fund will support Memphis musicians who have lost income due to the cancellation of scheduled gigs, contracts and teaching engagements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Music Export Memphis estimates that the average loss of income due to COVID-19 has been $4,000 per musician.

These new grants follow a commitment to increased flexibility for all existing grantees nationwide to help them weather the crisis. Last month, grantees were given the option to convert restricted funding to general operating support, and to retain and repurpose funding for events. Kresge also suspended grantee reporting requirements and site visits for the foreseeable future and committed to expediting grant approvals and amendments.

The Detroit, New Orleans and Memphis grants – led by the Detroit and American Cities programs – are the result of collaborative funding including the foundation’s Opportunity Fund and all of its national programs (Arts & Culture, Education, Environment, Health and Human Services).

“During this time of great need and uncertainty, our commitment to expanding opportunity and strengthening communities nationwide is unwavering,” said Chantel Rush, managing director of Kresge’s American Cities Program. “The systems that help strengthen communities and expand opportunity – inclusive community and economic development, creative placemaking, and whole-family human services supports – are deeply connected. Together we are stepping up and stepping forward to help abate inequitable outcomes in the wake of this pandemic.”

“For many in our community, for businesses and organizations and institutions that are the fabric of our community, the crisis is immediate, and our first concerns have to be with health and survival,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “The crisis casts in bold relief the issues of equity and the need for long-term opportunity for the people of Detroit. We have long said that neighborhoods and their residents are the city’s heart and soul. Our first order of business is to do all that we can to save that heart and soul.”