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Staunton nonprofits petition city leaders for COVID relief

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) - In Staunton, a petition is urging the city to help local nonprofits, saying the organizations are vital to the quality of life and economic viability of the community. About 85 active nonprofits serve Staunton according to the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge.

The impact from COVID-19 on the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton is “existential” according to Managing Director Amy Wratchford.

“Our ability to move forward in any kind of stable much less sustainable way is threatened,” said Wratchford.

And, they are not alone. According to Wratchford, “As soon as we started reaching out to colleagues, we found that we were all in the same boat.”

Wratchford says 75-80% of the American Shakespeare Center’s total revenue is earned, which she says was completely wiped out from mid-March until late July. She says other nonprofits are seeing their donations drop.

“Because so many people are out of work. So many people are redirecting their funds to other priorities,” Wratchford said.

She sees an opportunity with CARES act funding. It’s federal money given to cities to help soften the blow caused by the pandemic. Wratchford says the city has done a fantastic job putting the CARES act money to use in a myriad of ways, including support for the Central Blue Ridge COVID-19 Local Response Fund to help people with basic needs, like housing and childcare. But, Wratchford says it appears the nonprofit community has been left out of that outreach, adding that they are as integral to the community as small businesses.

“In fact, we are small businesses, we just happen to be under a different tax code,” said Wratchford.

That’s why she started a petition on change.org, which now has nearly 1,000 signatures including other Staunton nonprofits.

“Just off the top of my head with the responses that I’ve received from nonprofit leaders - over 30,” stated Wratchford.

She is hopeful that city leaders will recognize the impact nonprofits have on the community as a whole. “If our sector went away, there would be a huge hole in the fabric of Staunton.”

City leaders are expected to discuss the CARES act funding at the October 22 City Council meeting, and the possibility of an application process that could provide money directly to nonprofits.

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