Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund has been reactivated by Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, seem in January at a City Council meeting, and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. (Photo: Derek Kouyoumjian)

The Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund was reactivated Thursday to provide emergency help to Cantabrigians experiencing extreme financial hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis, said Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale.

Last used when a 10-alarm fire tore through homes in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood on Dec. 3, 2016, the fund soared to nearly $1 million in around 10 days.

In this case, the Covid-19 virus has forced residents to stay home and closed businesses, meaning no income for many to pay for basic needs and rent and raising the possibility of severe long-term damage to their economic health and ability to stay in the city.

“The Covid-19 virus has had, and will continue to have, devastating impacts on all our residents, and particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community,” Siddiqui and DePasquale said in a press release. “The Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund will solicit and collect contributions to extend support to residents. We need our entire community, in collaboration with state and federal agencies, to be involved in mitigating and slowing this pandemic. Please consider donating to help your neighbors during this difficult time.”

The city’s partner in the work, the Cambridge Community Foundation, is launching two funds of its own: one that also help individuals and families; the other to help artists and others in the arts community who have been hurt significantly by the pandemic.

The Cambridge Covid-19 Emergency Fund will work with dedicated nonprofits to support vulnerable populations and provide direct financial assistance to individuals and families, with grants of up to $10,000 for nonprofits serving the city’s vulnerable and grants of up to $1,000 for individuals and families facing Covid-19–related hardship, said Geeta Pradhan, president of the Cambridge Community Foundation. Applicants can submit materials beginning Monday, and applications will be reviewed over the next six months on a rolling basis with the aim of distributing funds as soon as possible.

The Foundation has directed $50,000 into fund; Rosemarie and Steve Johnson and another generous donor have together contributed an additional $50,000; and Google Cambridge and has pledged an additional $100,000.

The Cambridge Artist Relief Fund will support individual artists, musicians and local arts and cultural organizations threatened by lost income. Both funds are for Cambridge residents or people who may live elsewhere but whose livelihood is tied to Cambridge.

New England Development, owner of the CambridgeSide mall, who has matched an initial $25,000   investment by the Cambridge Community Foundation; the Johnsons have also pledged an additional $25,000; and the City of Cambridge is a $75,000 donor to the effort. The fund will accept contributions on an ongoing basis.

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis starting Monday to provide grants between $200 and $1,000 to artists and arts and cultural organizations facing a financial crisis. A limited number of grants of up to $5,000 will be available to Cambridge arts organizations that employ artists and performers or train them.

Together, the funds will inject more than $350,000 into the community – in addition to the more than $400,000 in grants to 50-plus nonprofits the Foundation will make next month as part of its regular spring grant making, Pradhan said.

The city’s online donation portal is here. Donations can also be mailed and made payable to “Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund – COVID-19” and sent to:

Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund
c/o Finance Department
Cambridge City Hall
795 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139