The Open Society Foundations has announced a $133.7 million commitment in support of efforts to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on providing immediate relief for vulnerable communities and pushing back against government encroachment on political freedoms.
The funding will be targeted to those most at risk, including informal, low-wage, and gig economy workers; refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers; homeless people; frontline health workers and caregivers; and detained and incarcerated individuals. The commitment includes $37 million to fund efforts aimed at supporting workers and their families in New York City, where Open Society's largest office is located; $12 million to support emergency relief for vulnerable workers in other U.S. cities and states; and $2.5 million in support of community-based initiatives in Baltimore, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. — all places where OSF works.
Grants include $15 million to the New York City Fund for Public Schools, which will be used to help fund the Department of Education's emergency remote learning efforts, as well as childcare centers for the school-age children of essential workers; $20 million to the city to create an Immigrant Emergency Relief Program that provides direct, one-time emergency relief payments to up to twenty thousand immigrant families hit hard financially by the crisis but likely to be excluded from federal relief programs; and $2 million to the National Domestic Workers Alliance's Coronavirus Care Fund.
Of the $65.8 million earmarked for global efforts, nearly $42 million will be awarded to NGOs working to support low-income workers, including those in the informal sector, caregivers, and the undocumented; protect refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers as well as disadvantaged groups such as the Roma in Europe; and provide access to new vaccines and treatments, regardless of economic or citizenship status. The commitment also includes $9 million to fund efforts to end the excessive use of mandatory imprisonment and detention and protect those at greatest risk of infection in crowded facilities; $3 million for organizations in Europe working to counter disinformation and serving the most vulnerable populations; and $3.5 million through the Open Society Foundation for South Africa and the Open Society Initiative in support of emergency services and care, as well as efforts to bolster an equitable public health response from civil society, the media, government, and the private sector.
"The scale of this pandemic has laid bare the fault lines and injustices of our world," said George Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations. "We missed the opportunity to create a more just economy after the financial crisis of 2008 and provide a social safety net for the workers who are the heart of our societies. Today, we must change direction and ask ourselves: What kind of world will emerge from this catastrophe, and what can we do to make it a better one?"