Overcoming PPE shortages for those most in need

The distribution of more than 25 million masks in vulnerable communities is helping address health-related disparities accelerated by the coronavirus

Personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be an essential component of the fight against the coronavirus. And yet, in local communities around the country, shortages of face masks, protective gowns and gloves continue to persist.

Such shortages are reportedly greater in communities of color and vulnerable communities, both of which have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. What’s more, enhanced safety measures have stretched the budgets of local nonprofits and health centers, and the ongoing costs of securing PPE is not likely to lessen any time soon.

Take, for example, Haven for Hope, a San Antonio-based nonprofit that serves about 2,400 individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. The organization saw its inventory of PPE fall to a one-week supply. “Without this gear, safeguarding our employees and volunteers, as well as the people we help get back on their feet, becomes extremely difficult,” says Kenny Wilson, Haven for Hope’s chief executive officer.

Face coverings continue to be one of the most important preventive measures, yet it is still difficult to source them. Recognizing the problems this posed in local communities, Mike Curran, Local Markets organization executive at Bank of America, knew a way the Bank could help. 

Curran tapped the Bank’s extensive community relationships to identify local partners that serve vulnerable populations to help distribute face masks. The masks are provided to low-income families, the elderly, communities of color disproportionately affected by the virus, and the frontline workers, schools and community and health centers that serve them.

To date, the program has reached a milestone - distributing 25 million masks, 160,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and 4 million pairs of gloves. Haven for Hope was one of the recipients, receiving a shipment of 50,000 of masks. Local volunteers from Bank of America helped pack and distribute hygiene kits that included the masks. “The coronavirus has disrupted how we serve San Antonio’s homeless population,” says Wilson. “So getting supplies to help continue that service has had a big impact.”

Organizations that have received PPE from the bank, in partnership with the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, are primarily serving low-to-moderate income communities and communities of color, including families and youth, homeless populations, frontline workers, small businesses, schools and health centers, including:

  • More than 2.6 million masks and 16,000 bottles of sanitizer to healthcare organizations, including hospitals that require thousands of masks per day to safely meet patient and visitor demand such as the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and community clinics like San Jose Clinic in Houston.
  • 1 million masks to support essential agricultural workers across the state of California and 5.5 million masks and 35,000 bottles of sanitizer to organizations that address food insecurity such as New York Common Pantry in New York City and the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C.
  • More than 1.4 million masks across South Florida, primarily to youth and students, and hundreds of thousands of masks to Atlanta and Chicago public schools.
  • Over 600,000 masks to partners that support small businesses, including Community Development Financial Institutions which provide capital and other support, such as LiftFund in San Antonio.

This effort builds on Bank of America’s commitment to support vulnerable communities, including $350 million in philanthropic donations provided last year to address needs related to food insecurity, health, housing workforce training and education and more. In addition, Bank of America has partnered with CVS Health to provide free flu vaccine vouchers to under-resourced communities across the U.S. for the 2020-2021 flu season.

Learn more about how Bank of America is helping local communities manage and mitigate the impact the coronavirus is having on their most vulnerable residents.

Originally published 09/25/2020