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Two St. Louis-Area Grant Funds To Bring Some Relief To Nonprofits, Small Businesses

Subterranean Books in the Delmar Loop with a sign citing online orders only due to Covid-19
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Subterranean Books, shown on March 18, is one of many locally owned small businesses that have shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

A St. Louis-area philanthropic foundation is working to give relief to many of the locally owned businesses and nonprofits financially strained by the coronavirus outbreak. 

The St. Louis Community Foundation has established two grant funds that have raised around $1.4 million combined, according to a press release from the organization. 

One of those, the Gateway Resilience Fund, aims to provide small grants to people who work for locally owned businesses, including retailers, restaurants and concert venues. The fund also plans to give a few $5,000 grants to businesses located in the St. Louis Downtown Community Improvement District.

Roo Yawitz approached the foundation to help establish the fund in recent weeks. The Gramophone sandwich shop owner said it’s an opportunity to quickly get money to people whose income has suddenly disappeared as they are waiting on unemployment benefits applications to process.

“This is specifically to support affected individuals like bartenders that would have been buying groceries today based on tips that they would have earned last night,” he said. “Or somebody who would have been cutting hair yesterday, but their barber shop is closed down.”

Yawitz said that the fund received more than 100 applications from individuals on Monday, one day after it was announced. 

A separate fund, the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, will provide grant money to nonprofits that work with populations most vulnerable to COVID-19, including the elderly, people who have been quarantined or children who’ve lost access to free or reduced-price meals because of school closures. 

Workers at those nonprofits are now “being asked to do more because we’ve got people being laid off,” said Amelia Bond, president and CEO of the St. Louis Community Foundation.

“The needs are tremendous,” she said. “In a time of crisis, people are fearful, and they want to do something; they want to help. This is a way St. Louisans can help and have impact.” 

A council will direct grants from the fund to nonprofits based on the region’s most urgent needs, which now include food, distribution of medicine and support to senior services. Bond said those needs may change in the weeks ahead.

Both funds are currently open to receive donations. 

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Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.