Donors set up $75m fund to help cultural groups and other non-profits in New York City

Fund will disburse grants and loans to small and midsize organisations impacted by coronavirus

A sign posted outside The New York Public Library announces that the library is closed until further notice Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

A sign posted outside The New York Public Library announces that the library is closed until further notice Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

A coalition of foundations, companies and individuals announced today that they had set up a $75m fund to aid non-profit arts, cultural and social service organisations in New York City that are reeling from the Covid-19 epidemic and resulting shutdowns.

Called the NYC Covid-19 Response & Impact Fund and administered by the New York Community Trust, it will disburse grants and interest-free loans to small and midsize non-profits to help them meet city residents’ needs and to cover losses linked to the disruption of their activities.

“Thousands of these vital community organisations across New York’s five boroughs are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, risking the continuity of their daily operations and challenging the stability of the critical services they provide,” the consortium of donors said in a statement. “While many organisations are continuing to respond to the immediate needs of impacted, vulnerable community members, too many are struggling due to lost revenue that will diminish their ability to pay rent, make payroll, and continue to fulfill their public service missions.”

New York City now has about 4,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 26 people have died from the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said today. That means that the city accounts for 30% of the coronavirus cases in the US and 70% in New York State, he added.

The announcement of the new $75m fund noted that most of the organisations facing interruptions in their activities because of Covid-19 are unlikely to be able to collect insurance payouts that would be available for other types of disasters. To be eligible for the fund’s grants and loans, an organisation must be a 501(c)3 non-profit organisation based in New York City that already receives city or New York State money and has an annual operating budget up to $20m.

Many small and mid-size non-profits are struggling to maintain their operations amid restrictions imposed by the city to encourage social distancing. The grants and loans would finance technology like laptops and remote calling systems like Zoom for staff members, underwrite staff support to cover for people who are ill or who need to care for children during school closings, go toward equipment like masks and hand sanitiser, and help make up the loss of income due to the cancellation of programmes and events.

The donors to the fund are Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Joan Ganz Cooney & Holly Peterson Fund, the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund, the JPB Foundation, the Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The New York Community Trust, Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros, Jon Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Robin Hood, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the UJA-Federation of New York and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

“We at the Mellon Foundation recognize the arts and humanities’ unique power to cultivate hope in the midst of challenges and uncertainty,” the statement quoted Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation, as saying. (The Mellon’s contribution will go to arts non-profits.) “As artists and cultural institutions adjust to new fiscal realities, we call on funders, businesses, and individuals to join us in supporting the arts and the strength, inspiration, and perspective they bring.”

The announcement of the $75m fund came as for-profit art galleries also made an urgent plea for financial support from the city in a petition organised by the New Art Dealers Alliance. Having shut down to limit the spread of the coronavirus, they noted, nearly all have had to cancel or indefinitely postpone exhibitions, receptions and other events, resulting in a steep loss of revenue. “If no action is taken, these businesses will not survive and many artists and art workers will be left without a system of support,” the petition said.