How Covid Relief Money Helped KP Residents

Federal, state and county grants supported KP community organizations. And so did the neighbors.


COVID-19 affected the Key Peninsula in many ways: residents lost jobs and coped with isolation, illness and death. Some organizations had to close their doors. Others worked in new ways to meet increased demands as government, private foundations and individual donors stepped forward to provide financial assistance.

The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and United Way of Pierce County teamed up to form Pierce County Connected early in 2020. GTCF provided $750,000 in seed money and added a $1 million challenge to ultimately raise $7.8 million.

Pierce County Connected sent $280,000 to the KP, including Children’s Home Society of Washington to provide childcare for first responders, the Key Peninsula Violence Prevention Coalition, the Gig Harbor & Key Peninsula Suicide Prevention Coalition for behavioral health and technology support, Key Pen Parks for Wi-Fi access and the Key Peninsula Partnership for a Healthy Community to provide vaccine access.

KP Partnership Director Susan Paganelli said that organizations with existing connections to funders were generally more successful in getting money. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department asked the partnership to apply for a $100,000 grant to address vaccination rates on the Key Peninsula. “We see this to be around vaccinations and vaccine resistance, and about strengthening communication pathways within a community. There is always a disconnect between agencies and communities. This is about getting more accurate communication in both directions,” she said.

The partnership’s initial goal of funding local vaccine clinics has since evolved into providing outreach and education in the face of declining vaccination rates, including training local organizations.

At the other end of the scale, the Longbranch Improvement Club did not apply for any financial assistance, relying on rental income from its marina, but suggested donations for the community be made to the Longbranch Foundation. The foundation website allowed donors to select local organizations for assistance or to make donations to them directly. The foundation funneled $9,200 starting in March 2020, far above the typical $2,000 to $5,000. Beneficiaries included Food Backpacks 4 Kids, the Bischoff Food Bank, the Key Peninsula office of Children’s Home Society of Washington, and Communities In Schools of Peninsula.

CISP received two Payroll Protection Program loans to retain employees and bring back those whose hours were cut, and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan for $10,000, all of which were forgiven since the monies were spent for the intended purposes. There were many donations in-kind, which helped CISP reduce its overall expenses in a school year that saw far more work than usual.

We helped families figure out what Schoology is (an online learning portal), where homework is posted, how you do remote learning,” said Executive Director Colleen Speer. “We did many more home visits than usual for academic assistance, even if it was just to sit outside and talk. There was much more food delivery, and masks, sanitizer.” CISP also distributed donated gas and grocery cards. “We still have some of those, just call the office,” she said.

KP Community Manager Gina Cabiddu of CHSW said that the increased need was exponential. “We worked with families we have never seen before. Outreach has increased and there is a constant challenge of change.” CHSW received PPP loans and funding from the county through the $2.2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES, to pay for rental assistance, in addition to a Pierce County Connected grant for general program support.

The Red Barn Youth Center did not apply for any Covid relief funds but was able to rely on donations. Red Barn worked with CISP and CHSW to provide a remote learning site for students without internet access and for students not engaging with the online school model. School Bus Connects and the Peninsula School District provided transportation as much as possible under the restrictions of the pandemic.

Willow Eaton, executive director of Key Peninsula Community Services, said that its food bank demand quadrupled. The National Guard replaced the usual volunteers, most of whom were high-risk seniors, to distribute food. The on-site lunch program morphed into one of pick-up or delivered meals. CARES funding of approximately $100,000 flowed through the county to pay for supplies, including personal protective equipment, hiring an additional kitchen assistant, freezer repair, new refrigerators and overdue site upgrades. “The need is still great, the demand continues, and we want to serve the community. The KP has been amazing,” Eaton said.

Food Backpacks 4 Kids received funding from both CARES and Pierce County Connected to pay for food storage racks, commercial refrigerators, freezers and a new trailer to haul food.

The Mustard Seed Project received two PPP loans and additional CARES funding to support its work with community elders. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, known as ARP, provided funding via Pierce County for a $1 million grant in July toward construction of its assisted living project.

“In the last six months we’ve doubled the number of instances of service compared to the same time period last year,” said Development Director Marion Sharp. “We continue to be amazed by this community and how people support each other.”

The Key Peninsula Fire Department received CARES funding through FEMA, the Washington State Military Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. The funds paid for personal protective equipment and increased staffing costs related to Covid response incidents.

Key Medical Center received funding for personal protective equipment, to cover medical insurance for furloughed workers, additional computers and servers needed to shift from in-person to virtual medical care, and software to improve telemedicine security. The center also purchased a medical trailer to provide healthcare services to people experiencing homelessness and plans to use it on the KP for future health-related events, including school sports physicals and dental screening.

The Angel Guild was forced to close its doors during the pandemic. CARES Act funding provided a PPP grant and rental assistance. The store was able to reopen in June and has resumed its program to offer grants to the community.

The Key Peninsula Civic Center Association received both CARES and ARP funding totaling $62,500 to partially reimburse staff and cover the loss of income while the building was closed to event rental.

The Key Peninsula News operates under the nonprofit umbrella of the KPCCA but is financially and editorially independent. KP News did not receive any Covid relief funding.