The University is launching three new programs in the coming days to help the South Side community weather the “personal and financial challenges and emergencies from the COVID-19 pandemic” according to an email sent to members of the University community by President Robert Zimmer Saturday morning.
The University will provide support on three fronts: a community meal service; support for local businesses and nonprofits in the form of rent relief and bridge grants; and UChicago Medicine response funds.
“We will be using our dining infrastructure to provide, and in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to safely deliver, meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner through June 12 to residents on the South Side,” said Zimmer. These meals will be distributed at locations in Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn. “The effort will provide at least 225,000 meals,” Zimmer said. This translates to approximately 3,000 meals per day.
The University will also provide assistance for local businesses and nonprofits “while they wait for public sector and philanthropic assistance to be fully mobilized,” Zimmer said. The Office of Civic Engagement and the University’s Commercial Real Estate Operations department will “provide rent relief for University commercial tenants” and also “direct funding support in the form of small bridge grants” to small businesses and nonprofits on the South Side. Tenants will be able to view their eligibility beginning March 30.
Zimmer also announced that the University’s Polsky Exchange for startups will also develop online workshops for local businesses. These will be made publicly available through the Polsky Exchange website. Work-study students at the University will also have the opportunity to serve as “virtual consultants for clients and nonprofit partners” through the Community Programs Accelerator.
Zimmer also promoted the UChicago Medicine COVID-19 Response Funds. This is “a campaign to support local UChicago Medicine health care workers on the frontlines of confronting this crisis as well as the patients and families who are affected,” Zimmer said. “UChicago Medicine COVID-19 Response Funds are covering costs for patient and family hardship support, technology to connect patients and families during visitor restrictions, hospital equipment and supplies, transportation, and other urgent needs.”
This announcement comes at a time when many local businesses face financial hardship and uncertainty. In a follow-up email from Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee, both thanked colleagues and community partners who “have made this important initiative possible.” They also expressed gratitude to the University community’s willingness to support the South Side community.
“We have heard from a number of members of the University community seeking ways to support the University’s South Side efforts during this critical period. As such, we have established a set of opportunities for people to contribute to one or more of the efforts outlined [in Zimmer’s email],” Zimmer and Lee said.