Dear Friends and Partners,
A month ago, President Trump declared a national emergency, which allowed federal government agencies to respond and help states, territories, and tribal entities conquer the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 56 states, territories and the District of Columbia, have received major disaster declarations, which is the first time in the history of our Nation. In addition, 26 tribes are working directly with FEMA under the emergency declaration.
Two months ago, many of us did not have or foresee the roles that we are now in – working remotely at home while the kids run around us, spending holidays away from family and friends, or being a frontline worker wearing a mask without the ability to show a smile of appreciation less than six feet away from colleagues or survivors. Our country and the world has, and continues, to change.
This disaster is different for us, as it probably is for you. But just as faith-based communities show us after a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake, you (the entire faith community) quickly filled the gaps and leaned into response mode before the federal government could step in. You ramped up donations, delivered food to your at-risk populations, and you educated the masses on how Houses of Worship can still practice their faith at a distance, but together at heart.
Last week, the DHS Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives team called many of our partners to not only check in, but to hear about the amazing initiatives they are running across the country. While FEMA is often in the headlines, many of you do not always receive the recognition you truly deserve during times of crisis. The stories we heard through the phones warmed our hearts and provided ground truth that we do not always have the privilege of seeing (or hearing). We want to give a shout out to some of those partners with whom we spoke.
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Dr. Burnett from the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia took matters into her own hands before the virus even started to take over the country. Having an existing disaster plan in place, and four hours of editing, Dr. Burnett had a pandemic plan ready to use. With many of her churchgoers being subject matter experts in medicine and mental health, the church made multiple webinars for the public focusing on ensuring physical and mental health during this time. Webinars are open and available to the public and can be found here: African Methodist Episcopal Church Health Commission.
American Friends and Service Committee
Working hard to advocate on a local level for prison populations, those experiencing homeless, victims of domestic violence, and their right to safe housing that is up to social distancing and cleanliness standards.
Tzu Chi USA
Delivering health and medical supplies to health care providers and hospitals around the country. They are also opening up charity services (food, supplies, cash relief) to the most critically impacted by the pandemic – those with low-income, the elderly, and more.
Islamic Relief USA
Providing hygiene items to those experiencing homelessness and others needing assistance. They have built a $1.9 million emergency response fund to help their neighbors affected by COVID-19.
Launched a COVID-19 hotline and Food Bank for food deliveries and over-the-counter medicines. They have provided more than 30,000 meals in New York, and 1,400 meals a day in California, as well as providing food to shelters.
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Recruited 1,000 volunteers who are answering over 35,000 calls for prayer all over the country. Coordinating with Samaritan’s Purse, their Rapid Response Team Chaplains are deploying to New York City and Cremona, Italy to minister for those in need.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Charities
Donating PPE nationally and internationally. In coordination with Convoy of Hope, they are donating food supplies and goods to food banks around the nation.
If your House of Worship or Faith-Based Organization is stepping up to fight COVID, please let us know by emailing your stories of success to Partnerships@fema.dhs.gov.
Rumors change with the days during this pandemic. FEMA is working to help clarify and provide ground truth to the public on what is truly happening at the federal level to ensure the safety and health of its citizens. Please send this Rumor Control link to your communities to not only stop the spread of the virus, but to stop the spread of the rumors!
We can’t thank you enough for your endless compassion and dedication to helping serve to not only your neighbors, but to the nation.
Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives
US Department of Homeland Security