Innovators Respond to COVID-19

by Tiffany Ferguson, on August 13, 2020 at 5:59 AM
Innovators Respond to COVID-19

Innovators are problem-solvers. They excel not just at brainstorming new ideas, but also implementing them. It's no surprise, then, that our Innovators rose to meet the moment of COVID-19.

When we select Innovators as finalists of The Innovation Fund, we identify them as leaders who stand out in their fields. They're distinguished by their visions, their plans, and their demonstrated abilities to carry those plans into fruition. 

We have never before offered a cash prize to Innovators with a vision and plan to support workers specifically during a global pandemic. But the very people who are best positioned to do so, are the Innovators already working on visions and plans to support workers and build worker power every day. 

We are proud of our Innovators and their responses to COVID-19. Here's a roundup of how some alumni of The Innovation Fund have used their platforms to support their communities during the pandemic.

Advocating for Workers Affected by COVID-19

Working Washington 

Winner - The Innovation Fund Fall 2019
Finalist - The Innovation Fund Fall 2018

Based in Washington state (not D.C.), Working Washington is "building a powerful workers movement." Wages and working conditions are in their wheelhouse and they wasted no time calling on political leaders to protect workers from the consequences of COVID-19. On March 8, they issued a statement urging state electeds to legislate financial protections - such as suspending utility shut-offs and evictions - for low-wage workers. 

Throughout March and April, Working Washington crafted fact sheets for all types of affected workers, including gig workers, domestic workers, and dancers. They broke down the confusing CARES act information into clear, easy-to-understand resources based on scenarios. 

And finally, they set up a "rapid response alert system" to keep workers informed and protected in this rapidly changing environment. 

Connect with Working Washington
Website

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL)

Winner - The Innovation Fund Fall 2019

CTUL has been a loud voice for protecting vulnerable workers through COVID-19. Based in Minneapolis, MN, CTUL is a worker-led organization where workers organize, educate, and empower each other to fight for a voice in their workplaces and in their communities. 

In March, CTUL published a detailed list of resources for workers affected by COVID-19. The flyers, phone numbers, and links served to help workers learn how to:

  • Understand their right to a safe workplace
  • Know their paid sick leave rights
  • Access unemployment benefits

As Minnesota begins to re-open, CTUL is using social media to keep Twin Cities workers safe. They're sharing posters in Spanish and English about workers' right to a workplace safe from the spread of COVID-19. They post about how to report unsafe workplaces, offer signs for workers whose shifts have them traveling after curfew, and provide locations for free COVID-19 testing. 

Connect with CTUL
Website 
Facebook 
Twitter
Instagram

COVID-19 Care Packages to Benefit Vulnerable Workers

FreeFrom

Winner - The Innovation Fund Spring 2020

FreeFrom exists to build economic freedom and workplace support for survivors of domestic violence. One of their programs, Gifted by FreeFrom, promotes entrepreneurship by selling gifts made by survivors. A primary reason people stay with abusive partners is a lack of financial security. In late April, they added a COVID-19 care package, including two face masks, hand sanitizer, and soap - all handmade by FreeFrom beneficiaries. Proceeds from the boxes support the financial independence of domestic abuse survivors, so “shelter in place” doesn’t have to mean being trapped with an abuser.

Connect with FreeFrom
Website
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Instagram

Sharing COVID-19 resources with workers

Open Door Legal

Finalist - The Innovation Fund Spring 2020

Based in San Francisco, Open Door Legal is pioneering the nation’s first model of universal access to civil legal aid in order to dramatically reduce poverty. In April, they published a "Legal Resource Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic." Covering the implications of COVID-19 on legal issues such as elder abuse to immigration, the guide is written in plain language and available in Spanish.

Connect with Open Door Legal
Website
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Instagram

San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment (SFOFE)

Winner - The Innovation Fund Fall 2018

Helping San Franciscans gain financial stability and mobility, SFOFE draws from more than tools in its public toolbox. Formed as a private-public partnership, SFOFE also takes inspiration from its Silicon Valley surroundings to innovate and experiment its way toward its goals. 

San Francisco was one of the first cities in the U.S. to be affected by COVID-19. The office wasted no time in supporting local workers and small business owners. Using its website and social media, SFOFE quickly assembled a wealth of tips and resources to help workers weather the economic disruption of COVID-19. 

They organized into one place:

  • Public grants and funds available
  • How to access food benefits
  • Where to obtain health insurance 
  • Updated information on tax filing changes
  • Notice of utility shut offs and late fees suspensions
  • Where to access to low-cost internet

One of its ongoing programs, Smart Money Coaching, replaced in-person consultations with virtual ones to support workers facing sudden changes in income due to COVID-19.

Connect with SFOFE
Website 
Facebook
Twitter

Free services & volunteer help for workers

Wiggle Room 

Finalist - The Innovation Fund Fall 2019

Based in New York City, Wiggle Roomconnects working parents with trusted friends and family when unexpected child care needs arise. Their app can find childcare in under 10 minutes in 80% of cases. To respond to essential workers' needs for childcare during the coronavirus pandemic in NYC, Wiggle Room offered that app for free in early March. 

Then, they expanded their services beyond an app, launching Workers Need Childcare at the end of March. This volunteer effort aims to provide free childcare for essential workers in the city. It’s currently seeking volunteers.

Connect with Wiggle Room
Website
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn 
Instagram

COVID-19 relief funds and grant money for workers

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)

Winner - The Innovation Fund Fall 2018
Finalist - The Innovation Fund Spring 2020 

NDWA is the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States, most of whom are women of color. 

Based in New York City, NDWA almost immediately began to collect donations specifically for domestic workers. By the last week of March they had launched the Coronavirus Care Fund with a goal to raise $4 million to support 10,000 nannies, house cleaners, and homecare workers with lost income due to coronavirus lockdowns. 

Connect with NDWA
Website
Facebook 
Twitter

ROC United 

Finalist - The Innovation Fund Fall 2018

Based in New York City, ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Centers) United is a national organization fighting to improve wages and working conditions for the country's restaurant workers. Almost as soon as talk began of closing restaurants, ROC United began figuring out how to collect and distribute donations to restaurant workers. Requests for grant monies were so overwhelming that they've suspended new applications for the Restaurant Worker Relief Fund. They are still collecting donations to provide direct assistance to current applicants. 

In addition to direct cash assistance, ROC United has been pressuring corporate restaurant owners such as Darden to provide paid sick leave and health benefits to its restaurant workers. 

Connect with ROC United
Website
Facebook 
Twitter 
Instagram 

Pursuit 

Finalist - The Innovation Fund Fall 2018

From its NYC headquarters, Pursuit serves unemployed or underemployed workers from low-income communities that face systemic barriers and lack access to resources needed to thrive in the tech industry. On March 16, co-founder and CEO Jukay Hsu announced the allocation of money from the company's operating budget to create a $250,000 Pursuit Emergency Relief Fund. This fund provides direct assistance exclusively to Pursuit Fellows and alumni. 

Connect with Pursuit
Website
Facebook 
Twitter
Instagram

Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (NTFP)

Finalist - The Innovation Fund Fall 2018 

A financial services organization focused on building anti-poverty tools, NTFP was well-placed to spring into action when COVID-19 hit. On March 20, Andrew Yang announced he was partnering with NTFP to distribute 1,000 households in the Bronx to receive $1,000. The next week, SaverLife, Opportunity Fund, and Wells Fargo announced their partnership with NTFP to administer a $1M financial aid package for 1,000 small business owners and their employees.

Connect with NTFP
Website
Facebook
Twitter 
LinkedIn

Did we miss anyone? 

Innovators, send us your updates. If we missed your COVID-19 response efforts, drop us a line at innovationfund@theworkerslab.com. We will amplify your news on social media. 

Are you an Innovator? 

If so, subscribe to learn more about The Innovation Fund. Innovators receive $150,000 cash and 12 months of support to bring to life a project building worker power.   

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Topics: The Innovation Fund

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