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The Russell Family Foundation Supports Pierce County COVID-19 Relief Through CARES Act Loan Pool Participation

Pierce County received $158 million in CARES Act federal COVID-19 relief funding last summer. Of that money, the Human Services Department awarded local service providers approximately $32 million. However, there were two challenges that arose as the CARES Act program proceeded. One, CARES Act funds were set to expire on December 31, 2020 and any unspent funds would need to be returned to the federal government. Second, at the time, restrictions required that CARES Act funds were dispersed by reimbursement only. Some of the CARES Act federal funding was sitting at Pierce County government ready to reimburse partners, while some of the County’s nonprofit partners struggled to front the cash needed to provide essential, eligible services to the community.

To meet this challenge under the tough deadline, OnePierce Community Resiliency Fund, the investment arm of the health equity nonprofit Elevate Health, approved up to $2.5M in zero-interest loans to provide Pierce County nonprofits with the up-front cash they would need to carry out qualifying services. These bridge loans would be repaid after the providers received CARES Act reimbursement. Greater Tacoma Community Foundation (GTCF) organized a philanthropic guaranty pool to underwrite the OnePierce loans.

With the loan fund in place and a coordinated guarantee pool, a fast-acting group of philanthropic organizations and government partners raced against the clock to get the loan program launched, with no precedent or template for this kind of program in Pierce County to draw from. In October 2020, TRFF participated in the to the pool with a $250K loan guarantee.

“The notion that a simple cash flow issue was preventing CARES Act funds from being deployed into the Pierce County Community, and that those funds had an expiration date of December 31st, 2020, was highly motivating to The Russell Family Foundation,” reflected TRFF CEO Kathleen Simpson. “Without this community’s responsiveness and quick actions, Pierce County would have left close to $1 million in dedicated basic needs funding on the table.”

Eight community organizations applied for and received loans, totaling $847K. Funds were used primarily for eviction rental assistance. Thanks to the loans, in the final months of 2020, service providers were able to:

  • Support 1,295 Pierce County households with rent assistance
  • Support 1,372 Pierce County households with childcare including day camps for children of first responders and essential workers
  • Provide 990 Pierce County residents behavioral health contacts and supports

In 2021, guarantors and partners will meet to discuss the next steps and the future of this vehicle in anticipation of more federal COVID-19 relief funds in 2021. The Russell Family Foundation is excited to explore how a public-private partnership model like this one can continue to serve our community during these times of great need.

To learn more about the impact of the CARES Act funding pool, see this in-depth article from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.