As many in Spokane face unemployment and the health care system is stressed, community grant funds are set up to respond

click to enlarge From Here at River Park Square is closed at least until April, affecting the income of regional artists.
From Here at River Park Square is closed at least until April, affecting the income of regional artists.

More than a million dollars in grant money is nearly ready to go out to Inland Northwest nonprofits, organizations and individuals, as various charitable funds team up to ensure those who are most impacted by COVID-19 are able to get help.

Some grants will be available for individuals to apply for, while others are for organizations that will then use the money to help others. Here's an early look at the resources currently available.


A power player partnership between the Innovia Foundation, Empire Health Foundation and Spokane County United Way is poised to give at least $700,000 out to nonprofits and organizations on the front line of the local coronavirus response in coming weeks.

Hosted by Innovia, two COVID-19 community response funds, one for Eastern Washington and one for North Idaho, will be granted out to organizations under the guidance of a Regional Pandemic Community Advisory Group. The advisory group will be made up of government officials, education workers, health care workers, and first responders who are best poised to know the immediate needs and those who are working to solve them, says Molly Sanchez, director of grants and community engagement for Innovia.

"We're looking at supporting nonprofit organizations, churches, and other community-based organizations that are working to meet the most immediate needs of vulnerable populations," Sanchez says. "We want to start [handing out checks] within the next two weeks ideally. That may be ambitious, but we definitely understand the need for immediacy."


Professional photographers, musicians, graphic designers, visual artists and creatives supporting themselves through gig and freelance work can apply for up to $500 from a new emergency fund being managed by Spokane Arts.

The fund, seeded by at least $25,000 from Spokane Arts, as well as community donations (those can be made at is open to applications from people who can show that the gigs, booth sales and other events they'd planned to make money from have been canceled, says Melissa Huggins, Spokane Arts executive director.

"That funding is unrestricted, there are no strings attached," Huggins says. "Individuals can use that for whatever their most emergent need is, whether that's paying rent, buying medicine, whatever their need is."

Creatives can apply for funding at and the application link can also be found at the bottom of the donation page asking for community support.

The emergency grants are also separate from Spokane Arts' SAGA awards. A round of $42,000 arts grants will be handed out on April 1, and the organization has another $100,000 to award in the next rounds to happen this year, Huggins says.


Another option for artists is the COVID-19 Artist Trust Relief Fund, open to artists throughout Washington state.

The fund, seeded with an initial $250,000, is offering need-based cash grants of between $500 and $5,000. The grants are unrestricted in order to help artists with: lost wages and earnings; loss from event, performance, and conference cancellations and school/community-based education closures; reimbursement for travel loss; medical expenses; rent and mortgage payments, food, utilities and other living expenses.

Artists must be at least 18, Washington residents, and may be of any discipline, but curators, organizers and producers aren't eligible. Applications can be found at


Many different GoFundMe pages have been set up, including the Spokane Hospitality Workers Emergency Relief Fund, set up by Ted Munat. The fund had raised about $5,800 of its $20,000 goal as of Monday evening. Organizers were still figuring out how and when people who work in the service industry, who nearly all were laid off last week with forced statewide limitations and closures of restaurants and bars, could apply.


The United States Bartenders Guild has started a national Bartender Emergency Assistance Program to help bartenders suddenly without work as cities and states shutter their work to slow the spread of the virus.

Bartenders don't have to be members of the union to apply for the assistance, but they do need to document their financial need and the hardship they're experiencing. The guild's website has been experiencing high traffic, so if the application doesn't work, applicants are asked to try again later or wait another day.

Applications and information available at


The national nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which started in the wake of 9/11 to help hospitality workers whose jobs were impacted, is offering small assistance grants to hospitality workers impacted by coronavirus shutdowns.

The organization is offering $500 grants to hospitality workers who've had hours slashed or lost their jobs and is also offering links to other small funds that have since been set up. Find information on those grants at ♦

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...