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Press Release

Irvine Foundation Commits $22 Million in Emergency Funds to Grantees Focused on Low-Wage Workers

The James Irvine Foundation announced today a commitment of $22 million for grantees in 2020 to weather the economic storm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foundation, which focuses its resources to make California a state where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically, will provide $20 million as part of its Recession Resilience Project to core grantees within its major Irvine initiatives: Better Careers, Fair Work, and Priority Regions.

The Foundation will also provide approximately $2 million in additional funds to other grassroots nonprofits working to protect and advance low-wage workers in California. (Irvine plans to make more than $100 million in grants in both 2020 and 2021.)

“COVID-19 and its economic fallout will disproportionately endanger working Californians who were already struggling to make ends meet,” said Don Howard, President and CEO of the Irvine Foundation. “The nonprofits serving Californians living on low incomes also face unprecedented challenges, and the Irvine Foundation wants to ensure that these critical organizations have the ability during and after a recession to fulfill their missions.”

The Recession Resilience Project will provide immediate emergency funding to a cohort of grantees in Irvine’s Better Careers, Fair Work, and Priority Regions initiatives; technical assistance for financial planning and recovery; and longer-term strategic response grants for the same grantees.

“Irvine staff have learned from grantees before and during this crisis the importance of flexible support and how hard it can be to build reserves to weather a recession,” said Kafi Blumenfield, the chair of Irvine’s board of directors. “We hope that this investment will support these organizations’ efforts to weather the economic downturn as well as serve as a model for other funders as they seek to help their grantees during this crisis.”

Irvine will determine in coming days the criteria for the additional $2 million available to support other nonprofits (likely through existing response funds), and the Foundation has relaxed restrictions and expectations on current grants; reduced restrictions on most new grants; postponed or eliminated other requests of grantees, such as site visits and reporting.

“We are very aware that the need today and in coming months far outweighs anything we can do by ourselves,” said Howard. “We want to continue to engage our peers in philanthropy and California nonprofits – and other leaders – to make the best use of our resources on behalf of low-wage workers.”

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California. The Foundation’s current focus is a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided more than $1.98 billion in grants to organizations throughout California. With about $2.5 billion in assets, the Foundation made grants of $105 million in 2019. For more, please visit