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Nonprofits, charities being "devastated" by COVID-19

Posted: 5:27 PM, Mar 25, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-25 17:27:15-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — On the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis are nonprofits and food banks like Second Harvest of the Big Bend.

Nonprofits make up a bigger part of our workforce than some might realize, more than 12 million.

Florida's nonprofits asking that anyone who can donate to please do so, as they suffer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jobs advocates say they are at risk if help doesn't come soon.

Second Harvest is still offering free food as need grows.

"People that two weeks ago were food secure are standing in a very uncertain day today," said Monique Ellsworth, Second Harvest of the Big Bend CEO. "It might be dire next week."

Ellsworth added that demand has come with a dramatic drop in donations.

Second Harvest has seen little to nothing in the last few days.

"We're having to dip in our budget in ways we weren't expecting to," Ellsworth said. "We're also reaching into our community to ask them to support us."

The call for help is echoed by nonprofits across the state.

People are saving, donations are dipping, and the need for services is rising.

"We're just devastated," said Rick Cohen, National Council of Nonprofits, COO.

Experts with the National Council of Nonprofits fear a charitable crisis is on the horizon, 100 times worse than the '08 recession.

"We're just in the initial days and we're hearing from a lot of nonprofits that they may be closing their doors," Cohen said.

The danger of those closures has Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried urging people to give, if they can.

"We do this every single year during hurricane season," said Fried. "Now, more so than ever, we need to support nonprofits."

Florida's Philanthropic Network and others now taking the plea to Washington, D.C.

With national advocates, they're urging Congress help with a forthcoming stimulus bill, asking for $60 billion in emergency funding.

If secured, those dollars could keep Second Harvest more focused on feeding rather than funding.

"We stand here to make sure that we can be that safety net and we can stand in that space of uncertainty with our community," said Ellsworth.

That stimulus bill is nearly complete, but supporters think they've scored at least some wins for nonprofits.

They've already gained better access to loan programs and allowing more to deduct donations from their taxes.