October 21, 2020

Extending Thanks to PCF for Founding Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund, a Community Collaboration

To the Editor:

On March 10, 2020, N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic that had just claimed its first victims in the state. Soon after, all non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down and New Jersey residents were ordered to quarantine at home. Recognizing that many of our community’s residents would be in need of assistance, local organizations, including Princeton Community Housing, joined to form the Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). The goal of the fund was to “enable residents to be able to stay in their homes … maintain access to utility service that enables students to be connected to school and enable all residents to be connected to food resources and other necessities during this crisis.”

CERF was a community collaboration, led by the Princeton Children’s Fund (PCF) that included Princeton Community Housing (PCH), Princeton Human Services Department, Princeton Senior Resource Center, and Send Hunger Packing Princeton. A fundraising goal of $500,000 was set. Contributions totaling over $435,000 were collected from donations by the Princeton University Relief Fund, the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and from over 830 individuals.

By July, CERF had received over 440 applications for assistance. A team of three intake coordinators and a 10 member steering committee gave generously of their time to review the applications. By July, over 440 applications had been reviewed and 353 grants were awarded. The average award was just over $3,000. Jordan Goodwin, the community activities coordinator at Princeton Community Village, served on the steering committee and notes, “CERF was extremely effective.… When I look back on the pandemic, I will remember the resilience of people who faced tremendous hardship and the sincere gratitude expressed for the generosity of the Princeton community, who came around to them during their time of great need.”

Residents of PCH had 20 CERF applications approved (PCH manages 70 apartments at Griggs Farms, 238 units at Princeton Community Village (PCV), and three private homes). With CERF ending, PCH continues to support rent relief for its residents through its Coronavirus Emergency Rent Relief Program, which is funded by donations from individuals and by the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund and the Princeton Area Community Fund.

Our grateful thanks to the Princeton Children’s Fund for founding and administering CERF and to the many volunteers from municipal and local social service organizations who served on the CERF Intake Committee and the CERF Steering Committee for providing case management services.

Toshi Abe
PCH Trustee, Walnut Lane