It’s easy to see the effects of the pandemic as a grim wake-up call to the structural inequities dividing the country, but in highlighting such extremities we now understand the need to act—and with urgency. As the pandemic picks up heat across the country, more communities are falling to the risks of economic instability. A combination of gaping pre-pandemic wealth disparities and prolonged economic shutdowns that have cost millions their jobs have increased the strain on households to provide for themselves. Unemployment continues to drag across the DMV, forcing many families to make tough decisions about where to access essentials like food, basic needs and even housing. However, while the need has skyrocketed, so has collaboration between nonprofits, government entities and businesses to fill in the gaps.
In March, United Way of the National Capital Area stepped up its Emergency Assistance Fund, ushering millions of dollars into food banks, economic assistance and basic needs to revitalize the communities hit the hardest. In July, United Way NCA unveiled its next five-year community commitment to bridging inequitable gaps and disparities. In October, United Way NCA once again hit the ground running in the DMV with its weeklong Project Community Connect, offering support services to the community in need. Services ranged from food distribution, basic needs drop-offs and virtual workshops in the spaces of workforce development, nutrition assistance and financial counseling. While Project Community Connect initially only ran for a week, the framework of United Way NCA partner nonprofits convening in the same space to provide wraparound services has the potential to scale to the size of demand experienced in the DMV.
“When I think about the importance of partnerships, when we connect with United Way—everyone has a population that they have been working with—we now have a grander opportunity to affect the people across the board,” shared Rasheem Brooke, director of Workforce Development at DC Central Kitchen.
DC Central Kitchen was one of many United Way NCA partners who helped fill a gap in need during Project Community Connect. Through their partnership and the collaboration of several others throughout the week, United Way NCA was able to serve over 5,000 meals to individuals and families across the DMV.
However, the work doesn’t end there. With the end of the year comes the close of federal and state protections on evictions, exposing thousands more families to seek emergency shelter during the winter season. With record-shattering COVID-19 cases darting up across the DMV, the housing issue is not just a financial crisis but a public health one as well. United Way NCA is looking to mobilize partners in nonprofit and municipal spaces to provide additional relief in the coming months. In the meantime, United Way NCA Financial Empowerment Centers are helping families through financial coaching and workforce development.
To learn more about how you can get engaged and involved, visit unitedwaynca.org