Just one year ago, our resolve as a nation was challenged as we grappled with uncertainties and a “new normal” caused by the pandemic. Our ability to come together in the Tampa Bay region to help each another is something to be celebrated, emulated and not forgotten.
From Day One of this pandemic, I saw resilience, compassion and selflessness firsthand every day as the president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. We didn’t hesitate to see how we could serve the urgent, unique needs of not only the youth and families we serve but those of our community.
The federal American Rescue Plan will help nonprofits like ours continue to provide critical services. The coming summer months will be critical for our young people as we aim to make up for significant learning loss while combating increased rates of hunger and food insecurity and mitigating the longer-term harm on social emotional development that young people experienced over the last year.
Certain provisions in the law such as critical investments in summer and after school learning and enrichment activities, emergency child care funding and increased Paycheck Protection Program funding will help as we move forward in our community response while identifying further ways we can help. Nonprofits are grateful for this much-needed relief, but additional support is needed to keep providing critical services to our communities and those that need them most. Nonprofits like ours face a financial quandary as we have been met with decreased revenues and increased demand for services.
The Work Now Act recently introduced in Congress would create a grant program to assist nonprofit organizations to retain their employees and continue services that have been critical to our country’s COVID-19 response and ongoing recovery. Also, we must address the glaring learning losses our students now face due to school closures and remote learning. The pandemic has widened the education and skills gap that faces too many of our country’s young people, especially our students of color.
Further investments must be made in programs that contribute to skill development, workforce readiness as well as strengthening the emotional wellness of our young people. They are the future, and we must prepare them for that future today. A heartfelt thank you to our members of Congress for their leadership supporting nonprofits and youth in a time of need so that we can continue to support our community during theirs.
Freddy Williams is the president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast.