Richard King Mellon Foundation Ups Its COVID-19 Commitment to $25 Million

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2020) – The Richard King Mellon Foundation has approved an additional $10 million in funding for COVID-19 recovery efforts, on top of its $15 million aid package announced in April.

The additional $10 million includes a new $2.5 million higher-education initiative, aimed at helping area colleges and universities to safely reopen this Fall.

“Education always is a priority for the Foundation, because it is the fuel of prosperity,” said Foundation Director Sam Reiman. “But the Foundation also is keenly focused on the economic impact of our institutions of higher education, including in our more rural areas, where data show these institutions play an outsized role in the local economy. This funding will help our colleges and universities to manage the additional costs that will be necessary to reopen safely this Fall for their students – and to restart their economic engines for their neighbors.”

The specific higher education grants enabled by this additional funding will be announced in the coming weeks.

The $10 million also will enable $3.3 million in additional grants under the Foundation’s Economic Impact and Recovery initiative. The Foundation launched this initiative in April by soliciting ideas from the community on meaningful recovery efforts. More than 200 ideas were submitted, from more than 500 collaborating organizations. The Foundation announced last week that it had awarded 37 grants in response, totaling $5.25 million. “But there were so many worthy ideas, our Board approved this additional $3.3 million to fund 24 more grants,” said Reiman. 

As with the first round of Economic Impact and Recovery grants, the 24 second-round grants are focused in five areas. The five focus areas, with an example of a second-round grant for each, are:

Alleviating economic impacts on low- and moderate-income employees: A grant to the Mediation Council of Western Pennsylvania, for a mediation program to reduce the anticipated increase in evictions of Pittsburgh renters due to COVID-19 job losses.

Bolstering the social safety net: A grant to Community Human Services Corporation to expand telehealth access to behavioral-health services for vulnerable individuals in Allegheny County who have experienced homelessness, mental illness or substance-use disorders.

Employment assistance: A grant to the Westmoreland County Community College Education Foundation, to scale up its job-training programs for people who are out of work, and to provide enhanced job-placement services once training is complete. 

Addressing academic impacts: A grant to The Center that CARES to increase digital literacy for families in the Hill District, to enable greater access to important services that increasingly are available only online due to the pandemic.

Jump-starting regional economic activity: A grant to Locally Grown, for its Business Resiliency Program, to enable once-stable small businesses in Wilkinsburg that are threatened by COVID19 to survive the pandemic and emerge with even stronger business strategies and systems.

The additional $10 million in funding also will enable additional Program Related Investments in Health Innovation and Technology, to help finance local efforts to create COVID-19 vaccines; enhance COVID-19 testing; or better protect people from transmission of the virus. Through Program Related Investments, or PRIs, the Foundation provides capital to for-profit initiatives that have the potential to bring significant public benefit, but that require financing beyond the traditional capital markets. The Foundation’s primary goal in making such investments is to make a social difference, not an economic return.

For example, the Foundation’s additional $10 million in funding enabled a Program Related Investment with Pittsburgh-based, clinical-stage biotechnology company CytoAgents, to help finance Phase 1 human clinical trials of a drug designed to reduce the severity of the human immune system response to COVID-19 cytokine storm caused by infection.

Said Foundation Chairman Richard A. Mellon: “We were gratified to have quickly provided $15 million to help mitigate the most immediate impacts of this pandemic. But the next six months largely will determine the success of our region’s recovery. And the Foundation is resolved to continue to assist the many organizations that are working so hard to make Southwestern Pennsylvania a national leader in this effort.”

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Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Foundation’s 2019 endowment was $2.7 billion and its Trustees in 2019 awarded 172 grants totaling $129 million, focused on the Foundation’s strategic priorities: economic development, education, environmental conservation and human services.