How is it nearly August?! We hope you’ve been able to enjoy these summer weeks (despite the chaos of the world), and that this July newsletter provides you with some important updates about the ongoing justice work happening across the state.
The Maine Initiatives Team
IMPORTANT UPDATES: Nonprofit Relief Fund
On July 7th, Maine Initiatives sent a letter to the Economic Recovery Committee in support of the proposal to establish a $50 million Nonprofit Relief Fund, using CARES Act Funds to support community-based and grassroots organizations providing critical emergency response to the COVID–19 crisis. In light of the devastating racial disparities of COVID–19 cases in Maine, we further advocated that the distribution of these funds prioritize the Black-, New Mainer-, Wabanaki-, Latinx-, and people of color-led and serving organizations that are on the front lines of this crisis. Over 130 nonprofit and philanthropic partners signed on to the letter and we’re proud to report that the Nonprofit Relief Fund proposal did go to the Governor at the target amount.
**TIME SENSITIVE INFORMATION**
Yesterday, we learned that the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee of the Maine State Legislature met on July 27th to discuss the future of the Nonprofit Relief Fund (you can watch a recording of that meeting here). After reviewing the recording, we’ve identified some critical updates to share: The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) is working to create a pre-application for Emergency COVID–19 Funding for small businesses and nonprofits that will be used to inform how these funds should be targeted and allocated. The application could be made public as soon as Monday, August 3rd. While both the timeline and the content of the application are still unclear, we know that it is critical for nonprofits to begin preparing content for this application as it seems there may be a rapid turnaround time for submissions. We recommend following the Maine Association for Nonprofits (MANP) updates closely over the next week in the event that there is a rapid turn-around application process. We will also re-share these updates as details unfold.
Portland City Hall Encampment
Over the past week in Portland, there has been a “protest encampment at City Hall, led by unhoused people, struggling renters, and allies to address the unjust treatment, criminalization & neglect of unhoused community members by the city government and police.” We’re sharing this information from the Southern Maine Workers’ Center in solidarity with the Maine People’s Housing Coalition. The Maine People’s Housing Coalition is a nonpartisan group representing a “broad coalition of residents working to end homelessness and guarantee access to safe and affordable housing for all Mainers” and “believes that housing is a human right.”
With the recent closure of the USM Wellness Center and the Preble Street day shelter and soup kitchen due to COVID–19 restrictions, the issues of homelessness and the needs of the unhoused in Portland are urgent crises. Organizers have shared their list of demands, which include decriminalizing camping out, extending eviction freezes, defunding the police, and more. To support these efforts here’s what you can do:
Photo from Maine People’s Housing Coalition
Let’s Talk About Race, Policy & Action
Last week, the Maine Philanthropy Center hosted a virtual event, “Let’s Talk About Race, Policy, and Action” for funders and nonprofit community members. The event was designed and facilitated in partnership with the Maine Philanthropic Network Advocacy Committee, of which our Director of Communications and Engagement, Andrea Berry, is the Co-Chair.
Historians, policymakers, and community leaders explored the history of race within Maine, how racism shows up in our public policy, and opportunities for our sector to combat these policies to become an anti-racist state. The event kicked-off with presentations by Chris Newell (Executive Director of the Abbe Museum) and Dr. Kate McMahon (Museum Specialist at the National Museum of African American History & Culture) on the specific history of slavery and colonization in Maine. They were followed by a number of powerful speakers including representatives of Maine Initiatives grantees; Abdulkerim Said (Executive Director of New Mainers Public Health Initiative) and Representative Rachel Talbot Ross (Founder of the Maine Black Caucus). Calls to action included working to revise the public education history curriculum of Maine and the U.S. to more accurately reflect our nation’s legacy of racial injustice, supporting policies that address systemic racism, examining internal policies that might be creating barriers to racial justice in our own work, and fully funding the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations.
COVID–19 Issue Spotlights Re-Cap
In case you missed our COVID–19 Issue Spotlights this month, you can catch them on our blog! These spotlights are designed to highlight the critical organizing and advocacy work of our grassroots grantees that are responding to this crisis. In July, we covered the following topics:
Each issue has a “what you can do section” so check them out and see how you can support these causes!