United Way COVID-19 Response Fund helping those with financial ills

MIDDLETOWN — Connecticut United Ways COVID-19 Response Fund is beginning to disburse payments to those who are suffering the financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund has raised approximately $450,000 for the first round of distributions to help Connecticut residents who have lost their jobs, lost hours at work, or may be facing other financial hardships as a result of the pandemic.

The fund is working with social service agencies across Connecticut to identify those most in need. Through a partnership with EML Payments (a division of Mastercard), an innovative system has been developed that will enable the funds to be rapidly distributed to beneficiaries. Once a beneficiary has been pre-qualified by a participating social service agency, they can download funds to the mobile wallet on their smartphone.

The downloaded funds can be used to pay for necessities, such as food, medicine, utilities and gasoline, at any location that Mastercard is accepted. The electronic distribution of funds means that money can be given to those who need it most, without violating social distancing requirements.

Initially, recipients will receive $200 to pay for basic needs. Additional funds may be available as donations allow.

The fund was launched with $100,000 from the Aetna Foundation. Since the launch, the Connecticut Health Foundation has committed $150,000 to the fund. The Travelers Companies has pledged $150,000, and Webster Bank has committed $30,000. With funds coming in from additional foundations and private donors, Connecticut United Ways anticipate they will be able to initially serve 1,500 individuals across the state.

“We recognize the significant needs this situation has created and we are pleased to support the United Way in getting immediate assistance to state residents facing hardships,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation. “It is critical that we work together to ensure that the response to the pandemic and economic disruption will reduce inequities, rather than widen them. Addressing immediate needs is an important first step as we consider the longer-term recovery.”

The fund will be used to help individuals and families that United Way calls Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are our hard-working neighbors who live paycheck to paycheck and have no savings to fall back on in an emergency like this.

Many of them provide crucial services in our community — such as caring for our children and elderly parents. With no financial cushion, they are particularly vulnerable to the rapidly changing scenario our country now faces. United Way expects that the number of individuals and families in the state that fall into the ALICE income threshold will grow as the crisis continues.

City and town social service departments can call 860-493-6800 to learn how to get funds to clients in need.

We are proud to partner with United Way throughout Connecticut during this crisis. Monies from this fund will provide direct assistance to our most vulnerable populations in a timely and innovative way. Middlesex United Way will continue our work surrounding financial stability, and do what we can to help families withstand, even amid a pandemic.

To donate to the Connecticut United Ways COVID-19 Response Fund, visit CTUWCovid19ResponseFund.org. Donors will have the option to pay a 3.09 percent credit card processing fee so that 100 percent of their donation can go directly to those in need. Connecticut United Ways will not charge any administrative fees on donations.

For information, contact at kevin.wilhelm@middlesexunitedway.org, Paula Gilberto, president and CEO of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, at pgilberto@unitedwayinc.org, or Kim Morgan, CEO of the United Way of Western Connecticut at kim.morgan@uwwesternct.org.

Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.