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U. commits $1 million to local COVID-19 relief efforts

Fitzrandolph Gates
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

The University established the Princeton University Relief Fund on Wednesday to help advance the efforts of local community organizations focused on alleviating pressures caused by COVID-19. $1 million has already been committed to the fund, with half of that amount already allocated to two local non-profits.

A committee composed of representatives from the Office of the President, Office of Community and Regional Affairs, and the Pace Center for Civic Engagement will be making recommendations to University Provost Deborah Prentice about how funding should be allocated. Once approved, the funds are distributed from the Office of Community and Regional Affairs, coming out of the University’s administrative budget.


This committee has already chosen the first two recipients of funding — the Princeton Area Community Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund will receive $400,000 and the Princeton Children’s Fund Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) $100,000.

University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 outlined the importance of the fund in a press release.

“Many local families, service organizations and businesses are struggling as a result of the pandemic. Princeton has been actively engaged in early efforts to alleviate pressing needs, and we believe there will be an opportunity to continue to do so over the long term as the response continues,” Eisgruber said. “The University is proud to be a member of the local community. At this critical time, we want to find ways to support those who serve our closest neighbors.”

The Princeton University Relief Fund supplements the University’s other efforts to support the local community during the COVID-19 outbreak — including donating personal protective equipment, faculty volunteering through the Special Activities and Resources Group, holding blood drives, and contributing to Send Hunger Packing Princeton.

Through the fund, the University plans to contribute to partner organizations, mainly in the Municipality of Princeton, that already provide direct support to local organizations, families, and businesses through grants or services. The fund does not accept individual contributions, but the organizations it supports rely on donations.

Jeff Vega, the President and CEO of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, said he was elated when he heard that they were receiving $400,000 from the fund.


“The University has always been a great partner,” he said. “That they were stepping up in this significant way was very inspiring.”

Still, Vega remains cognizant that his foundation still needs almost $1 million more in funding to match all of their requests for aid, and he emphasized the need for more donors at this time.

“The more generosity there is, the more we can do, the more we can support,” he said.

The foundation, which normally focuses on education, needed to mobilize quickly when the coronavirus hit. Vega said they immediately took $250,000 out of their budget to provide community relief and within three days had raised $1 million to provide further assistance. With the University’s contribution, they now have raised $2.1 million and distributed $800,000 in immediate relief for issues like food insecurity, mental health, and housing stabilization.

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Community Fund
Members of local nonprofits receiving grants from the Princeton Area Community Foundation (from left to right: RISE, Arm in Arm, and Every Child Valued).
Photo courtesy of the Princeton Area Community Foundation 

Princeton Children’s Fund will also benefit from $100,000 in funding from the University. Prior to the University’s donation, CERF had fundraised $240,000, including a grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation and gifts from over 690 donors.

“Princeton Children’s Fund plans to use the University’s donation to extend the duration of our Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) efforts,” wrote President of Princeton Children’s Fund Felicia Spitz in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “The grant from the University will enable us to support approximately 140-150 application requests.”

“We were overjoyed to learn of the donation and grateful to Princeton University for their philanthropic spirit and charitable support of our relief efforts. Their donation reinforces our commitment to the CERF mission to keep neighbors in their homes and connected to community resources,” Spitz added. “The University is not only the center of our town, it is also the heart of our community.”

The Princeton University Relief Fund committee has yet to determine where the remaining $500,000 will be allocated.

“The University is actively pursuing other partner organizations, especially those focused on helping local businesses,” wrote Deputy University Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss in an email to the ‘Prince.’