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Essex County COVID-19 Response Fund

Open Application: Crisis Relief and Recovery


In March 2020, ECCF launched the Essex County COVID-19 Response Fund to address the most pressing needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in the region due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. By design, the grants during the initial Crisis Relief and Mitigation phase (April – June) were rapid, unrestricted, and responsive to address basic needs. Areas of impact included: hunger, emergency shelter, elderly, disabled populations, emergency childcare, healthcare, mental health, financial relief aid distribution, and food for summer youth programs.

On July 1, 2020, ECCF expanded funding in an Open Application cycle to provide funding to nonprofits serving the most vulnerable and insecure residents who remain in crisis and are beginning to recover from the COVID19 health crisis and its economic impact.


grant guidelines

funding priorities

In this next phase: Open Application: Crisis Relief and Recovery, the Fund will accept applications from organizations as well as collaborations who meet the following qualifications:

  • Supporting Essex County residents disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
  • Supporting seniors, communities of color, underserved youth, immigrants, individuals with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities, and other vulnerable populations
  • Providing programs and/or services addressing one of the three priority areas: Health & Mental Health, Economic Security, and Education and Youth
  • Expanding or pivoting operations to address the most pressing issues in their community and have stepped up in significant ways
  • Serving Essex County residents, priority will be given to organizations based in Essex County
  • Organizations valuing inclusion from many community voices in decision-making from a diverse range of areas of expertise, gender, race, ethnicity, and community perspectives

ECCF believes in systems-thinking and encourages collaboration among organizations. Proposals that meet the above qualifications and include authentic partnerships to broaden reach or expand impact will be prioritized. The Fund has prioritized and will apply an equity lens to all grantmaking decisions to address racial and systemic inequities that have become evident through the COVID-19 crisis.

area of need priorities

The COVID-19 outbreak affects all segments of the population but is particularly detrimental to members of the social groups in the most vulnerable situations including immigrants, people living in poverty, senior citizens, persons with disabilities and youth. According to the CDC, current data suggests a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. The intention of this open grant cycle is to address these challenges in Essex County via the innovative work of the many front-line nonprofits serving the community.

Applicants are asked to apply in one priority area of Health & Mental Health, Economic Security, or Education & Youth (see schedule below). Applications should clearly articulate how their organization has pivoted (or plans to pivot) to address the challenge outlined in each priority area below. Only one application (as lead applicant) per organization. Should your organization be part of a collaborative application, you may be listed as a partner in another lead applicant’s request.



As noted above, COVID-19 affects all segments of the population and is particularly detrimental to members of those social groups in the most vulnerable situations, including immigrants, people living in poverty, senior citizens, persons with disabilities and youth. Early data reported by the CDC suggests that people of color are disproportionately impacted by illness and death associated with the virus. In addition, the compounded aspect of social isolation and the trauma associated with the crisis has caused a surge in mental health and substance use disorder needs as people try to cope and learn to recover from the trauma associated with the crisis. Current modalities of care (such as telehealth) may not be accessible to many of those living in poverty and therefore increase the inequities in access to care.

Applications will be considered in the following categories under Health and Mental Health:

  • Public Health & Community Safety
  • Priority on organizations that serve seniors, communities of color, underserved youth, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations
  • Priority on organizations working to provide Access to Quality Care Advances and the work outlined in the CHIP Social determinants of health (housing & health, access to healthy food, etc. FYI: The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides medical coverage for individuals under age 19 whose parents earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for private coverage.)
  • Priority to organizations working to build the pipeline of equitable, culturally relevant mental health and substance use supports and workforce
  • Emphasis on technology (such as telehealth) that will allow more equitable access to healthcare



The pandemic has created an economic crisis, dire burden of financial need for many and has placed a spotlight on the long-term structural inequities in economic security. The immediate economic impact is dire for many and is predicted to last months, years and even generations. Due to the ongoing cumulative effect of the crisis, the downstream impact will be significant in areas such as housing, food, and public safety.  Immigrant populations, homeless and other people living in poverty stand to suffer disproportionately both from the pandemic and its aftermath – whether due to limited movement, fewer employment opportunities, increased xenophobia, etc.

Applications will be considered in the following categories under Economic Security:

  • Housing Insecurity – focus on basic needs for Housing and Homelessness, rental assistance
  • Food Insecurity
  • Employment Opportunity – Adult Basic Education/Workforce Training/Technical Assistance for Small Businesses to get back to business



COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on youth as we have experienced changes in learning during quarantine, summer programming and the future evolution of education. The impact on youth will undoubtedly be far reaching in terms of learning loss, opportunity gaps, social emotional effects and for some, an increase in abuse at the hands of family members. In addition, families living in poverty rely on education systems to support their many nutritional and health needs and are disproportionately disadvantaged in terms of remote learning.

Applications will be considered in the following categories under Education & Youth:

  • Technological transformation
  • Social emotional preparations and adaptations
  • Programs addressing learning loss, mentoring, or college prep
  • After School enrichment programs
  • Early Childhood Development
  • STEAM Programs
funding requests

Grants will range from $5,000 – $50,000. In rare instances of collaboration and regional or county-wide systems thinking, ECCF will consider proposals that exceed $50,000. Grant funding must be expended within one year of receiving the grant award. It is important the grant begin to deliver resources immediately or expeditiously.

timeline, deadlines and decision making

There are three priority areas in this Open Application phase of the Essex County COVID-19 Response Fund, each with its own cycle. Applications will be accepted for one priority area for each month of July, August, and September (see deadlines and decision dates in the table below). 

Throughout the three-month Open Application phase, agencies may only apply once in the priority area of their choice. However, if an agency is part of a collaborative application, they may apply as the lead in another category. Late submissions will not be accepted.”

Cycle Priority Areas Application Open Date Application Deadline Grant Notification
Health & Mental Health
July 1, 2020
July 31, 2020
August 31, 2020
2 Economic Security August 1, 2020 August 31, 2020 September 30, 2020
3 Education & Youth September 1, 2020 September 30, 2020 October 31, 2020


ECCF is working with a 30-person team of diverse community volunteers, representing people from a wide array of ethnic, racial, gender, professional background, and areas of expertise. The committee, led by ECCF staff, is broken down into teams by priority area, each with its own criteria, rubric and scoring. We will apply an equity lens when reviewing applications across all priority areas.


What will not be funded?

The Fund is not able to support organizations seeking funding solely for lost revenue or loss of future revenue due to canceled events, programs or other financial commitments made prior to the pandemic. We recognize these challenges and the financial burden this pandemic has caused to thousands of nonprofits, however, the Fund can only support organizations that meet the Fund’s stated purpose.

Based upon the charitable structure of the Essex County COVID-19 Response Fund, our grants are limited to 501c3 nonprofit organizations, groups fiscally sponsored by a 501c3 nonprofit organization, or other charitable organizations able to receive a tax-deductible contribution, such as schools, faith-based organizations, and other public entities. We are not able to fund individuals or businesses directly, labor unions, or other 501c4, 501c5, and 501c6 organizations.

In addition, grants will not be awarded:

  • To individuals
  • For sectarian or religious purposes. COVID-19 Response Fund grants to faith-based organizations may only be used for non-conditional relief work and available to all qualified applicants without obligation
  • For political purposes
  • For debt or deficit reduction
  • For capital campaigns for buildings, land acquisition, or endowment
  • To support academic research

Organizations are still eligible to apply even if they received funding from the Essex County COVID-19 Response Fund during its rapid response phase.

information sessions

Individuals unable to attend either session may view a recording of the session, linked below.

Any questions should be directed to Carol Lavoie Schuster at c.lavoieschuster@eccf.org.

application procedure

Proposals must be submitted through ECCF’s Application Portal.

If you do not yet have a login for our application Portal, please read our Grant Application Process page which will give you access to the Portal.



Health & Mental Health: July 31

Economic Security: August 31

Education & Youth: September 30


$5,000 – $50,000


Organizations serving Essex County residents, priority will be given to organizations based in Essex County

nonprofits & grants

get in touch

Carol Lavoie Schuster headshot

Carol Lavoie Schuster

Vice President for Grants and Services
(978) 777-8876 x133

how can we help?

We would love to hear from you.

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