RI Foundation awards COVID-19 aid to help residents with food, rent and other expenses


Three local nonprofits are among 19 organizations across the state will be able to help Rhode Islanders with food, rent, utilities and other expenses thanks to $1 million in the latest round of grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

“Rhode Islanders are struggling to afford basic necessities. These grants will help backbone community service organizations around the state fill the gaps as people deal with having even fewer resources,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We are so grateful to the donors who have stepped up throughout the pandemic. We will continue to connect with charitable Rhode Islanders to support the nonprofit organizations on the frontlines of providing critical community services.”

The Comprehensive Community Action Program in Cranston will distribute hundreds of grocery store and pharmacy gift cards, subsidize transportation to medical appointments and other crucial destinations, provide emergency housing assistance among other critical expenses. The organization expects to help hundreds of households affected by the pandemic.

“Given the extent of unemployment claims filed and increased agency requests for food and other assistance, we know that many of our clients have been impacted. Our food pantry has experienced increased emergency requests. With many residents furloughed or laid off, and the supplemental unemployment stipend at an end, there are many more individuals in need,” said Joanne McGunagle, CCAP’s president and CEO.

Westbay Community Action in Warwick will re-stock its food pantry and provide assistance with rent and utilities. In addition, the organization will use a portion of its grant to buy personal protective gear in order to enable staff to safely make home visits. The organization serves approximately 22,000 people a year.

“COVID has had a direct impact on the communities served as we serve the most vulnerable from food access and acquisition to housing and utility help. Now that the stimulus money has stopped, many more families will have difficulties making ends meat. We feel the worse is yet to come in the communities we serve needing assistance,” said Paul Salera, Westbay’s executive director.

The Tri-County Community Action Program in Johnston will distribute grocery store gift cards and vouchers good at local retailers, provide funding for items not traditionally covered by state or federal support program such as eye glasses, over-the-counter medications and personal care items; provide emergency housing assistance and purchase hard to find items such as toilet paper, hand soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes to distribute to elderly residents who are sheltering in place.

“Many clients have lost all or part of their income due to layoffs and closures. This has disproportionately affected low-wage workers and the elderly, who often rely on family to supplement their fixed income,” said Joe DeSantis, Tri-County’s executive director.

“Clients are not likely to have savings to help close the gap between their normal weekly wage and the partial wage paid by unemployment. Because this crisis is affecting everyone, our low-income and elderly clients cannot ‘band together’ or rely on friends and relatives as they often do in these types of lost-income situations,” he said.

With this round of grants, the COVID-19 Response Fund at the Foundation has raised and awarded approximately $7 million since March 27 focused on those most vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $47 million and awarded a record $56 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2019. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit

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