Foundation Boosts Virus Relief Funding Pledge to $25M New Package Adds Aid for Colleges, Universities

By Gannon, Joyce | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), July 5, 2020 | Go to article overview

Foundation Boosts Virus Relief Funding Pledge to $25M New Package Adds Aid for Colleges, Universities


Gannon, Joyce, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The Richard King Mellon Foundation is adding $10 million to its commitment to help the Pittsburgh region deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new funding - which includes money for economic and health initiatives and support for the arts - follows a $15 million commitment that the city's largest philanthropy made in April for COVID-19 relief.

The April pledge came "with the real clear understanding this crisis wasn't going to subside in the short term," said Sam Reiman, foundation director.

As the unemployment rate skyrocketed and disproportionate effects of the pandemic on the Black community and other groups became more pronounced, "We realized this is something you couldn't just finish with one level of investment," Mr. Reiman said.

The foundation, created from the fortunes of Pittsburgh's Mellon banking family, had an endowment of $2.7 billion in 2019.

Its new package for COVID-19 aid includes $2.5 million to help colleges and universities in Western Pennsylvania cover additional expenses they will incur to reopen for the fall semester such as virus testing.

The money, to be distributed to about a dozen schools through grants that will average $200,000 to $250,000, could also help students fill financial gaps and be used for faculty needs such as transitioning to remote learning, Mr. Reiman said.

Providing funds to higher education institutions was a priority for the foundation, he said, because especially in smaller, rural communities, colleges "play an outsized role in the local economy."

Also included in the new round is $3.3 million to continue an economic impact and recovery initiative the foundation launched as part of its April commitment to COVID-19 relief.

It recently awarded 37 grants totaling more than $5 million from its first round of funds.

The board approved another 24 grants because "there were so many worthy ideas" among the submissions it received from the community, Mr. Reiman said.

Among the new allocations is $175,000 to Locally Grown, a nonprofit trying to jump-start small businesses in Wilkinsburg through an incubator program based at the former Johnston Elementary School.

Others include $175,000 to Community Human Services Corp. …

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