The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on Black people in Idaho in a major way. A local organization has found a way to support the marginalized community by giving out small grants to help people make it from day to day.
The Black Liberation Collective of Idaho launched the Black Mutual Aid Fund to provide financial assistance to Black families in need in the Gem State.
Alyssa Wainaina, the founder of BLCOI tells the news outlet Blacks are not only few in numbers, but are extremely “underserved.”
“We’ve had a Black community no matter how small in Idaho for a very long time,” she said. “We are a very underserved community because we are small and a very marginalized group.”
People who identify as Black or African American make up 0.9 percent of Idaho’s population, the most recent U.S. Census reports.
While the group makes up such a small percentage of citizens who live in the state, statistics from The COVID Tracking Project show Blacks eclipsing whites, Asians, Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders, and American Indian/Alaska Natives in COVID-19 cases and deaths in January 2021 and Blacks had some of the highest numbers during the time of canvassing.
COVID-19 in Idaho, like most states in the country, has resulted in the loss of jobs, food insecurity and homelessness.
BLCOI created a fund to address that issue and also afford Black people safe spaces to feel empowered, despite their circumstances. The Black Mutual Aid Fund is a race-based charitable grant that gives Black families additional monies without the burden of having to pay it back. Since the fund was launched in 2020, it has distributed $13,525 to needy people.
Wainaina said, “Our biggest goal is to give Black people money with no strings attached. “We’ve seen a lot of attention when it comes to the mutual aid applications. We’ve most recently ran out of funding in four minutes.”
Families have received up to $300 per household if their application was approved. The need is so great that currently the application process is closed. A message on the home page of the organization’s website says, “We are currently at capacity for requests, beloved. We’ll re-open our applications as soon as possible.” The organization expects to raise funds and receive donations in an effort to continue the work for the community.
While BLCOI cannot award the grants at this moment, it provided the community with a list of non-race-specific resources that can offer help to those in need.
Divided into categories, the Community Support Resource spreadsheet offers everything from free bikes to free clothes to free child care and early education to mental health services. The list has almost a dozen programs for food insecurity and contacts for several programs to help individuals in the state to organize their finances.
It also links people to programs that can provide free feminine hygiene products and HIV testing and counseling.
The organization is leaning on others to support, hoping that people near and far can contribute.
“As we continue to expand the work we are doing, we’d love to get more support from white folks and nonblack folks monthly. Like a $10 or $50 donation so that we can have consistent support and not just when there is something like extreme violence that happens towards Black people in our community,”
BLCOI and another organization recently received the Idaho Youth [Funds] for Change! financial and administrative mini-grant from the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence in the fall of 2021. The organization also raises money for BLCOI.
The organization posted on its website, “We are excited to announce that the Black Liberation Collective and Project Alarm will each receive funding to engage their respective communities in fostering environments to prevent sexual violence and help create the conditions where all youth can thrive.”
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