Milton J. Little Jr., the president and CEO of United Way for Greater Atlanta, said his organization and partners, fortunately, have a point of reference as they prepare for the deluge of requests for assistance from beleaguered citizens. As the coronavirus pandemic lays siege on metro Atlanta, as with the rest of the nation, he recalls how United Way successfully negotiated the Great Recession of 2008.
“On any given day, we are about raising of funds and investing in organizations. The COVID-19 is an example of one of these situations that are impacting people all across the region. We are finding that as this pandemic really hits, it’s not just health that people are focused on. They are trying to avoid the disease, but they also grabble with the social and economic impact of the pandemic,” Little said.
Milton disclosed the United Way of Atlanta has launched the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund in light of the sudden collapse in commerce due to the shuttering of businesses and schools, creating widespread economic calamity.
“People are losing their jobs. They are in danger of losing their homes. We are seeing a significant amount of people who are experiencing food insecurity because of COVID-19, meaning that they don’t know where their next meals are coming from,” said Little. “We are receiving calls every day from people who are in need of food and need financial assistance and looking for jobs because the one they had just last week is gone.”
Little remembers quite vividly when the rug was pulled from underneath the economy in 2008, creating the Great Recession that devastated millions.
“I learned to expect a significant amount of hardship by people because of the sudden loss of income,” he said. “And so we responded in ways that we traditionally do by helping people to the resources in the community that can provide assistance. So having that experience we could predict what will be occurring here and we created the funds to address those needs proactively.”
Little said United Way of Atlanta has so far raised over $20 million with their prestigious partners that include the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Woodruff Foundation, Wells Fargo and Regions Banks. The priorities for providing services begin with the first responders and healthcare workers “who are on the front lines” fighting against COVID-19. But they also include financial assistance for those who lost their jobs and for feeding citizens who don’t know where their next meals are coming from.
Little added that the organization will also work with the homeless population that is particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
“United Way and our partners at the Community Foundation are uniquely positioned to quickly and effectively identify areas with the greatest need, activate and connect people to resources,” Little said. “We are committed to securing and supporting the community safety nets needed for Child Well Being in these unprecedented times.”