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Virginians File For Unemployment; Richmond Nonprofit Offers Support to Families During COVID-19

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(Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Editor's note: Since publication, the Robins Foundation issued an update on their efforts: "We’ve raised a total of $1,175,000 for the Family Crisis Fund, which is enough to help 2,350 families in need.” This is an increase in $50,000 for an additional 750 families.

As hundreds of thousands of Virginians continue to file for unemployment, some in the greater Richmond region may be eligible for more financial help. A local nonprofit, the Robins Foundation, is working with three localities to support families who are experiencing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19. 

Virginia has seen 410,762 unemployment claims over the past four weeks. But according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor, they’re beginning to slow down. 

Last week 106,723 new claims were made across the state — a 30% drop from the week before. 

The Virginia Employment Commission reported that a majority of claims have come from people working in hospitality, restaurant, retail and healthcare jobs. It also said that younger workers and women are being disproportionately impacted, since they make up much of the workforce in those industries.

The Robins Foundation, a philanthropic organization, initially launched the Family Crisis Fund in partnership with the City of Richmond to provide additional support.I has since grown to include Chesterfield and Henrico counties.

Tyonka Rimawi is the program officer of community partnerships with the foundation. She said the fund applies only to families with children who are experiencing a loss of income as a result of the pandemic. Those who are eligible will receive a one-time gift of $500. 

“Maybe their hours have been cut, or maybe they've been furloughed or laid off or perhaps they've seen their childcare expenses skyrocket because they have to get to work right now,” Rimawi said. 

She added that cash assistance is especially helpful, since there’s no stipulation on how it can be spent. 

“It's important that families have access to that cash so they can get exactly what they need. Families have different needs, they have different circumstances.”

Rimawi said so far, the initiative has raised $1,125,000 — enough to help 1,600 families in need. 

While the initiative has attracted the support of other local nonprofits, like the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond, Rimawi said individuals can also contribute by visiting the Robins Foundation website. 

Richmond residents can apply for the Family Crisis Fund through the city’s RVA Strong website or by calling (804) 646-6464. Henrico and Chesterfield residents can reach out to their localities’ respective education foundations: