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By Kim Theodore Sidey

The Women’s Fund, established in 2004 to focus on the needs of local women and children, is a key strategy in Austin Community Foundation’s effort to close the opportunity gap in Central Texas. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across our own region, it is our community’s most vulnerable that will be most impacted by the health crisis and economic declines. In light of the crisis, we decided to revise the Women’s Fund grants process in order to expedite and increase funding for the 2020 grants cycle to a total of $400,000. More on that in a moment.

First, it’s important to recognize that women, already facing economic insecurity, will be disproportionately impacted by this crisis. Nearly 40% of Austin-area single mothers and their children live in poverty, compared to only 10% of the general population. Women are also more likely to be exposed to the virus during this pandemic given the family and career roles many occupy. Women disproportionately provide unpaid labor and makeup 70% of health and social sector workers.

A woman participating in a job training class.

Foundation Communities

This pandemic has shined a light on many existing inequities and broken systems. For those of us trying to juggle homeschooling of young children with a full-time job (I’m raising my hand here!) this pandemic has demonstrated exactly why child care is such a necessary work support. And yet, there are too many women in Central Texas who are unable to participate in the workforce and financially provide for their families because there is a lack of affordable and quality child care.

Recognizing the burdens many women and families are facing, the Women’s Fund leadership quickly pivoted during an active grants cycle in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that our nonprofit partners are on the frontlines and supporting communities whose health and economic security are disproportionately impacted. In response, the Women’s Fund:

  • Deployed more – and more flexible – capital into the nonprofit sector. We committed an additional $100,000 to our 2020 grants cycle budget and converted all grants to general operating funds so that agencies would have the flexibility to respond to unanticipated needs. The $400,000 in grants for 2020 represents a 60% increase in funding from our last grants cycle and a nearly 200% increase since our 2017 grants cycle.
  • Distributed funds more broadly and more quickly. The Women’s Fund awarded funding to 16 nonprofits (read about them here) on an accelerated grants review and distribution timeline to support their efforts in the Women’s Fund’s strategic priorities.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 had illustrated just how fragile economic security is for many women. Too many Central Texas families are just one emergency away from a financial crisis, and the Women’s Fund is committed to ensuring that all women have access to affordable housing, child care, an education, and the ability to decide when to start or grow their families.

I continue to be so inspired by the generosity, flexibility, and commitment of Women’s Fund investors in these uncertain times. If you would like to join us in supporting Central Texas women, please consider making a gift to the Women’s Fund below.