At the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard (PEMV), it was business as usual… making well researched grants to a myriad of qualified Island nonprofit organizations and awarding scholarships to worthy students.
Then came COVID-19.
Our immediate reaction was: “How can we help… now!”
We moved quickly, establishing the Emergency Response Fund to offer immediate aid. It was fueled from an initial infusion by the PEMV; followed by other generous donations, including a $100,000 grant from the Barr Foundation. To date we have received more than $250,000,
half of which we have already distributed to Island organizations and initiatives supporting the underserved and vulnerable amongst us.
Yet there is one vital area that has been neglected by both public and private programs — rental relief. There are more than 1,000 working Island households who live in rental housing. While some are fortunate to have year-round housing, the balance have seasonal rentals of eight-to-nine months and must find alternative housing in the summer. Most of the Island landlords of these rentals rely upon that income to pay their own mortgages and household bills.
These rental households are year-round community members who work in our stores, restaurants, offices, landscaping, and building trades. Additionally, they contribute to Island life
through our children’s schools, faith communities, and arts and sports programs. Many have lost work and income and need immediate assistance with daily costs and demands until safety net supports are in place and employment returns.
We at the PEMV have partnered with the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (DCRHA) to form the Emergency Rental Relief Program addressing the immediate needs of Island renter households with COVID-19 related losses of income. PEMV is funding the project and DCRHA is administering it. This is not rental assistance. Islanders enrolled in “rental assistance” continue to be taken care of. This is a program that targets Island renters who are typically not eligible for assistance and generally don’t seek it.
There is so much generosity on display here. We are all fortunate to find ourselves on this Island … perhaps now more than ever. Nonetheless, many of our neighbors need help in the most basic necessities of life: food and a secure roof over their heads at night.
Contributions to this fund have come from Foundations to Island merchants, from year-rounders to summer visitors wanting to help their beloved Island.
One Island school librarian even donated her stimulus check.
For more information, including how you can help, go to www.endowmv.org
Please consider pitching in. Thank you.
Edward Miller is treasurer and finance committee member for the Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard and Paul Karasik is a board member and the outreach coordinator.