$10K grants to be awarded to local nonprofits

PROVIDENCE – The Ocean State has already vaccinated three quarters of its adult population, but for those who’ve yet to roll up their sleeves, they may have a new incentive.

This week, Gov. Dan McKee announced a new vaccine incentive program that could assist local nonprofits that helped Rhode Islanders during the pandemic. Unlike other vaccine incentive programs in other neighboring states, like Massachusetts where individual recipients are entered into a lottery, these dollars could benefit the entire community. 

“We did intentional research and reflection to create a program that celebrates the spirit of Rhode Island, sustains the importance of getting all Rhode Islanders vaccinated over time, and provides support back to the organizations that are getting our most vulnerable neighbors through the pandemic,” McKee said, stressing the pride he felt for this new, inventive program. 

The Rhode Island Department of Commerce and the Rhode Island Department of Health, in partnership with the Rhode Island foundation, have established the COVID-19 Vaccination Incentive Fund. The $750,000 fund – $500,00 of which was provided by the state, and $250,000 of which was provided by the Rhode Island Foundation – will dole out $10,000 grants to local nonprofits each time 5,000 additional Rhode Islanders get vaccinated. 

The application process opened up to interested nonprofits on Tuesday, and will remain open through the Rhode Island Foundation Portal all week. Those who hope to apply, but miss the Tuesday, July 13 cutoff won’t be considered in the first round of grant awards. The application will remain open through the end of the month, however, for those who are hoping for a change in later rounds. 

A new round of grants will be awarded each time the Rhode Island Department of Health reports an increase of 5,000 first-doses in the Ocean State. The first round will dole out $100,000 in grant funding to 10 local nonprofits. The second round will disperse $120,000 to 12 local nonprofits, $150,000 for local nonprofits in the third round, and $180,000 for local nonprofits in the fourth round. 

The fifth and final round – amounting to $200,000 for 20 different local nonprofits – would mean Rhode Island was able to successfully administer 25,000 new first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This would also mean more than 700,000 Rhode Islanders would be partially vaccinated. 

“The RI Vax Challenge is one more reason for you to get vaccinated if you’re eligible and haven’t yet received your shot,” according to Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott. “In addition to helping keep Rhode Island safe by boosting our vaccination rate, this program will support the critical network of non-profit organizations in Rhode Island that have been helping people and families throughout the pandemic.”

“As we envision a post-pandemic Rhode Island, it is critical that we keep investing in the organizations that promote well-being at the community level and contribute to a healthier and more resilient state,” she added. 

While the state acknowledges the important impact of larger nonprofit organizations serving Rhode Island ,these grants are designed to support nonprofits with annual operating budgets of less than $3,000,000 in 2020. Eligible applicants must be 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations located here in Rhode Island, and they must have provided services or direct assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on individuals or communities. 

Those services could have aided a wide array of sectors, including health and basic needs, or support for children and youth. This could include efforts to address food insecurity, programs to combat learning loss and even expanded access to behavioral health services. 

The Ocean State’s successful vaccination rates to-date have allowed the local economy to safely reemerge from the pandemic, according to Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, and this program will hopefully continue to drive rates forward.

“This effort will help us build upon our positive momentum – by encouraging more Rhode Islanders to do the right thing for themselves and for their community,” Pryor said. “We thank Governor McKee for his continued leadership and the Rhode Island Foundation for this important partnership.”

The Rhode Island Foundation will review and determine whether applicant organizations meet the eligibility requirements of the program. As each milestone is reached, staff will place eligible applications into a lottery for the chance to win one of the many $10,000 grants. 

Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg believes that by “continuing to encourage more Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated, coupled with the incentive to provide support for nonprofits helping many still in need,” will help double the benefits that service everyone in the community.

“We are pleased to be able to step up as a partner to provide support for the governor’s creative program and to administer the grants,” Steinberg said. 

According to vaccination data from the Rhode Island Department of Health, as of Thursday, July 8, the Ocean State is home to 629,590 fully vaccinated individuals. And at least 693,376 Rhode Islanders are already partially vaccinated. 

Nearly 1.5 million doses have been received in Rhode Island, and 59.6 percent of all Rhode Islanders are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The “RI Gives Vax Challenge” comes on the heels of growing concern against the Delta variant. The variant accounted for more than 50 percent of all new COVID-19 infections seen across the nation over the past two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

According to the CDC COVID-19 Community Transmission Thresholds, Rhode Island is currently experiencing moderate transmission rates. Over the past week, there have been about 13.9 new cases per 100,000 persons. 

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