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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Shares Details for Greater Seattle Area Coronavirus Response Grants

Grants include support for vulnerable communities and public information campaign

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

SEATTLE, March 24, 2020 – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced grants totaling $3.7 million to support efforts in the Seattle-King County region to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The funding is part of a local commitment of up to $5 million that the foundation announced in early March. Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company founded by Melinda Gates, is committing an additional $500,000 to support Seattle-area communities disproportionately impacted by the disease.

“The pandemic feels like a universal experience, but we have to recognize that not all of us will experience it equally,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation. “By supporting local community response efforts, we can help make sure that, in this moment of crisis, we’re not leaving the most vulnerable behind.”

As part of ongoing technical assistance to Public Health – Seattle & King County (PH-SKC), the foundation will provide $1 million to help the agency disseminate timely and accurate information so the public can take appropriate measures to help prevent further spread of the disease. To accommodate an anticipated increase in confirmed cases, the funding may also help the local public health authority set up temporary housing or support complementary services for non-severe patients and people experiencing homelessness.

"We’re in awe of the heroic efforts of all those working around the clock to detect, treat, and safely isolate those diagnosed with COVID-19 in the greater Seattle area,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. “Seattle is not just our headquarters, it’s our home. And as a local organization with relevant expertise and resources, we have a unique responsibility to help. This funding will help public health agencies and community partners fill the critical needs they’ve identified, and we hope it catalyzes further action in the area.”

Since January, the foundation has been providing disease modelling and other technical support to PH-SKC to enhance its capacity to conduct effective COVID-19 surveillance and case detection. The funding will complement these efforts by helping PH-SKC sustain ongoing communication of priorities and best practices with the public.

“The single most important thing we can do to prevent COVID-19 from spreading is for everyone to stay home and avoid all nonessential contact with others, and it’s vital that people take this seriously,” said Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for PH-SKC. “One of our top goals is to make sure everyone gets the information they need to protect themselves, their loved ones and our healthcare system.”

To expand local capacity to address broader effects of the outbreak and meet the needs of those disproportionately impacted, the foundation is contributing to six regional COVID-19 response funds. The Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund will receive $1 million from the Gates Foundation and $500,000 from Pivotal Ventures. The foundation will also support efforts across Washington state, contributing $250,000 each to the Community Fund of Snohomish County, the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation serving Pierce County, the Innovia Foundation serving Spokane County, the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, and Philanthropy Northwest.

These funds will help community-based organizations responding to the state’s coronavirus outbreak meet the immediate needs of people who are economically or physically at risk, such as service industry and gig workers, healthcare workers, people with limited English proficiency and communities of color. Because people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable, the foundation is also contributing $160,000 each to three of Seattle’s homeless service providers: Mary’s Place, Plymouth Housing, and the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).

In addition to the funding announced today, the foundation is providing technical assistance to the Seattle Flu Study as it shifts some of its capacity from a research study focused on seasonal influenza to a surveillance platform for COVID-19. This new program, known as the greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN), is a collaboration between PH-SKC and leading medical, public health, and research organizations to understand the spread of COVID-19 in the greater Seattle region. SCAN receives funding support from Gates Ventures (the private office of Bill Gates) and technical assistance from the foundation and public health authorities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta, is also providing in-person technical assistance to help launch SCAN.

On February 5, the foundation committed up to $100 million to the global effort to respond to COVID-19. This included up to $20 million to accelerate international efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, up to $20 million to help partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia strengthen their response efforts, and up to $60 million to kick-start the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. The foundation is also supporting the rapid evaluation of testing tools and digital platforms that could be adopted by local, state, and federal governments in the United States and around the world to scale up broader and more equitable access to testing.

Each year, the foundation provides about $300 million in grants to community-based organizations in Washington state. Seattle is also home to 1,100 foundation employees who are parents, neighbors, and active members of the Seattle community.

Visit The Optimist for additional information about today’s announcement and Gates Foundation perspectives on the COVID-19 response.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.


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