“We’re not going back to ‘normal,'” United Way CEO Michelle Braun asserts in a newly released report. Normal is described as “accepting that half a million people in Northeast Florida continue to struggle to make ends meet every day,”
Among several recommendations, Repositioning for Strength calls for “enhancing local government and nonprofit partnerships” to address local systemic problems. The report notes specifically a need to address racism, discrimination, and oppression.
Repositioning provides a first reflection on lessons local nonprofits have learned as they manage through the Covid-19 pandemic. Produced by a working group of the Nonprofit Center, Repositioning asks “what must nonprofits do differently . . . for our communities to come back stronger, more resilient and more equitable?”
A key recommendation focuses on the partnership between nonprofits and local government.
Local government and the nonprofit sector, according to the report, quickly created public/private coalitions and task forces to provide human services as the Covid-19 pandemic raged along the First Coast. Repositioning urges local government to strengthen this partnership. It calls for a sustained focus on “disaster recovery, access to health care, livable wage employment, nutritious food, and fast, reliable internet service for all.”
Many local nonprofits provide essential services and did not close during the recent stay at home order. They continued to provide food, rent support, shelter, medical care, and mental health counseling. The report warns that these nonprofits “will continue to see increasing demand” as far too many people have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic.
Indeed, Jacksonville’s unemployment rate increased from 3% in January to 11.2% in May. Approximately 82,000 people are without work in the region.
Notably, the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, which released the report, has enhanced its website to include federal guidelines around the Paycheck Protection Program, and policy advocacy toolkits. (NonprofitCtr.org/repositioning)
The report does not address what is happening to local donations. But The New York Times (Charities Now In Need of Aid to Stay Afloat, July 25, 2020) reports that loss of donations, revenue, and government support has taken “an immense toll” on nonprofits Americans depend on during economic downturns and disasters. It cites a study by Candid projecting the closure of tens of thousands of nonprofits.
Twenty-eight leaders representing a cross section of local nonprofits that includes arts organizations, children’s and senior services, the United Way of Northeast Florida, and housing advocates produced the report.
The working group promises to produce additional critical reflections as the nonprofit sector experiences continued disruptions.