by Bret Bicoy, President and CEO, Door County Community Foundation
On March 19, United Way and the Door County Community Foundation activated the Door County Emergency Response Fund (RespondDoorCounty.org). Door County Medical Center is already working hard to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis, and the Emergency Response Fund is a coordinated philanthropic response to the resulting economic crisis.
Overcoming the extraordinary economic challenges of today and the months ahead will require an equally extraordinary effort by the people of Door County. In the short term, many families are in crisis when jobs are lost. Thus, the first distributions from the Emergency Response Fund were to the Boys and Girls Club and the Door County Meals Cooperative to provide free meals to families. It’s a quick way to put money into the pockets of struggling families because if you don’t need to spend a dollar to buy groceries, that’s a dollar you can use to pay your rent.
Support also went to the medical center to assist hospital patients with their nonmedical expenses and to HELP of Door County to address domestic-violence issues that have amplified because of family stress and social isolation. You have our commitment to report back on how all donations are being used. Visit RespondDoorCounty.org to see a complete accounting of the Emergency Response Fund.
Although we’ll continue to support charities that help people who are struggling in the short term, some respite is coming in the form of enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments. They may not be enough to replace everyone’s income, but they’re a good start. Frankly, our greatest economic challenge is probably not what’s happening today, but what will happen to Door County’s families after we emerge from our social isolation.
As the economy gradually returns to normal across much of the nation, the experts are saying that the limits on the number of people who will be allowed to gather will be raised slowly. That will likely lead to canceling many of Door County’s festivals and make it difficult for our performing-arts venues to operate. Tourism is predicted to be down considerably, and numerous arts groups and business associations have already begun planning for the grim prospect of losing part, if not all, of the upcoming season.
If we miss our window of warm weather, that will have a monumental impact on seasonal businesses and the many people they employ. Further, because this is an issue specific to seasonal communities, it seems unlikely that the government will launch another massive stimulus program just for places such as our little peninsula. In the long run, we’re probably going to have to deal with this ourselves.
That means we’ll need to spread distributions from the Emergency Response Fund over many months. To be completely honest, it also means we’ll likely be asking you to give again.
We’re facing some rough waters ahead, and we won’t make it if we try to sail alone. We may have to stay apart for a while, but we’ll get through this if we stick together as a community.
Contact Bret Bicoy at [email protected]