The Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund—organized by the Greater Houston Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston—distributed $30,000 to Cy-Hope and $75,000 to Cypress Assistance Ministries on May 28.
Mary Vazquez, vice president of community outreach with United Way, said organizers were very data-driven in the approach to distributing the resources.
"We really looked at data available to look at what areas were disproportionately impacted—unemployment claims, COVID cases, a number of different federal poverty levels in different communities," Vazquez said. "The Cypress area was one of those areas we said was disproportionately impacted, and we needed to direct some resources to that community."
Cypress was one of 20 communities Vazquez said was targeted. In particular, she said Cypress ZIP codes had higher rates of people filing for unemployment, and more phone calls to the United Way's 211 phone line—where individuals can get information and referrals for social services, such as rent assistance—were coming from the Cypress area.
More than 400 agencies in the Greater Houston area expressed interest in helping to disburse funds, Vazquez said. When it came to picking specific nonprofits, she said CAM and Cy-Hope had both partnered with the GHCF and United Way to help provide disaster relief after Hurricane Harvey. Both agencies submitted proposals for how they would use the money, which Vazquez said is primarily meant to help those in need buy food and pay rent, mortgages and utility bills.
"Both organizations have a great reputation for being able to quickly mobilize and get resources to area residents, so we felt really strongly about working with them," Vazquez said.
Unlike the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Greater Houston fund is made up entirely of private donations. A total of $15.4 million has been raised so far, with more than $10 million distributed, Vazquez said. Funding will continue to be raised for future allocations at www.greaterhoustonrecovery.org.
"The need is so great that it will take all of us working together," Vazquez said. "It’s difficult to say how long those resources will last."
Residents in need of assistance are encouraged to reach out to local agencies. They can also dial 211 to be referred to a local agency, chat with a specialist at www.211texas.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.