Four Washtenaw County organizations receive state grants to address racial disparities

Volunteers pack emergency food boxes at Food Gatherers' warehouse in Ann Arbor on Feb. 3, 2019. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities has awarded four local organizations Rapid Response Initiative Grants.

United Way of Washtenaw County, Food Gatherers, Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels and the Washtenaw County Health Department received over $1,000,000 in funds to continue to respond to the needs of communities of color that have been impacted by COVID-19.

“The funding ultimately means reducing cases across our county and among our most vulnerable populations, ensuring our response to the pandemic centers equity. And at the state level and locally, that is and has always been the goal," Alize Asberry Payne, Washtenaw County Racial Equity Officer and a member of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities Community Action Team, said in a statement.

“Working collaboratively throughout the pandemic with an equity lens has led to the additional support from MPHI to address the racial and health inequities that persist in our community,” Pam Smith of United Way of Washtenaw County said in a statement.

Here’s how the funding breaks down:

  • United Way of Washtenaw County: $500,000
  • Washtenaw County Health Department: $248,000
  • Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels: $144,600
  • Food Gatherers: $150,000

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UWWC’s grant will support its established COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund, which provides support to local community groups, human service nonprofits and UWWC. This work includes focusing on financial stability, meeting basic needs and supporting educational needs of local children.

"The Washtenaw County Health Department received $248,000 to expand the department’s ability to engage with marginalized communities through increasing access to pop-up testing and flu vaccine clinics, and through the integration of trained Community Health Workers,” Jimena Loveluck, health officer at WCHD said in a statement.

“A particular focus is African American and Latinx communities and people living in the 48197/48198 zip codes. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our communities of color and in the Ypsilanti area, and we are delighted to have more support to address this.”

Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels will use the funding to meet the increased needs of Washtenaw County residents who are under 60 years old and homebound. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the wait list for this age group sharply increased. A grant-funded social worker will also help eligible clients in this age group obtain Medicaid and other support from local services.

Another use of the funds for Meals on Wheels will go toward installing fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in clients' homes.

Washtenaw County’s premier food bank and rescue organization, Food Gatherers, will use the grant to help fund meals for people experiencing homelessness and for distributing groceries to areas severely impacted by COVID-19.

“Since the pandemic began, requests for food assistance have increased by as much as 300% at some food pantries," Eileen Spring, executive director of Food Gatherers said in a statement.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.