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Community Emergency Relief Fund reaches $500,000 awarded grants

CERF distributed $175,000 to nonprofits this week

The Community Emergency Relief Fund distributed $175,000 to 49 nonprofit organizations in Southwest Colorado to aid in coronavirus pandemic relief efforts during a mid-July funding round.

Since the coronavirus reached Colorado in March, CERF has distributed grants and financial support, totaling half a million dollars, to help Southwest Colorado nonprofits, food pantries, schools and other organizations face the economic toll of the pandemic. This third funding round concentrated on nonprofits, which face ongoing financial instability.

“Uncertainty in future funding is the primary concern expressed by our local nonprofits,” said Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado. “The CERF grant committee designated these recovery funds to support and strengthen nonprofits during these lean times.”

Nonprofit organizations in the five-county region, including Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, San Juan and Archuleta counties, expect to lose more than $8 million dollars because of the pandemic, according to a June nonprofit needs assessment.

CERF, managed by the Community Foundation and United Way of Southwest Colorado, expects emergency-related grants to cover 25% of those losses, according to a CERF news release Tuesday.

More than one-third of nonprofits in the region have had to lay off, furlough or reduce pay to staff members over the past four months, according to release.

This week, awarded grants ranged from $1,300 to $5,000. Recipients included six in Archuleta, two in Dolores, five in Montezuma and 36 in La Plata counties.

The Town of Pagosa and the City of Cortez provided $12,000 and $10,000 in matching funds, respectively. La Plata County received $117,500; Dolores and Montezuma, $32,500 in total; and Archuleta, $25,000.

“Nonprofits provide a safety net and improve our quality of life, and we need both now as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lynn Urban, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado. “By providing a financial boost through CERF funds, we help nonprofits to remain stable and to continue supporting the needs of people in the community.”

CERF, established in 2008, was set up for broad-based community emergencies in Southwest Colorado. Its first two rounds of COVID funding awarded $201,000 in grants to front-line organizations, like nonprofits and schools, serving the immediate needs of people impacted most by the pandemic.

It used another $100,000 to purchase food for regional food pantries, which faced a shortage of supplies during the crisis. More CERF grant rounds will be available based on need and continued donations from the community, the news release said.

“Distributing half a million dollars in just four months has been astounding, inspiring and a little exhausting,” Wrinkle said. “Witnessing the generosity of our neighbors is so encouraging.”