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United Way of the Midlands' COVID-19 Response

Adjusting to a “New Normal” in the Age of COVID-19


This spring, all of our lives changed. As the COVID-19 virus swept across the world, we watched in anticipation, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Pay cuts, layoffs and shuttered businesses and schools are still impacting our community, and no one is sure when things will go back to the way they were.


At United Way of the Midlands, we are working diligently to understand what our neighbors need as thousands more people in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro rely on nonprofit programs to help them get by:

Since March, our 211 Helpline has received more than 60,000 requests for assistance – a 142% increase over last year despite seeing high call volume due to the spring floods of 2019. This includes a 310% increase in the number of text messages received from people in need. Our 211 team also stepped in to assist the entire state of Iowa with 211 call volume, and staff from other departments has been helping cover nighttime and weekend shifts. The Helpline has also launched its new mobile alert service. Community members can now sign up to receive text updates regarding COVID-19 by texting NECOVID19 to 898211.  

With the support of nearly 650 individuals and several community partners, we raised more than $1.1 million to provide relief for nonprofit programs that are on the front lines of this crisis. 100% of these funds are going to programs that are providing food, healthcare, housing and utility assistance. Click here to view how funds have been dispersed to-date.

We also formed the Housing Stability Program to assist families with a rental or mortgage payment, and are currently working with nonprofit partners to process more than 200 applications and award funds to landlords and mortgage companies directly. More than $700,000 has been raised so far thanks to the generosity of our donors and community partners.

These truly are unprecedented times, but we know that our community is stronger when we work together and we will get through this.


Thank you for your support!

COVID-19 Fund Dispersal

Donations to our COVID-19 Relief Fund have been dispersed to the following organizations:

In response to the worldwide pandemic, UWM created a COVID-19 Relief Fund and gave donors the opportunity to support food, healthcare, housing and utility assistance programs across the metro.

Below, please view how funds have been dispersed so far across our community:

Program supported: Community-Based Mentoring for Youth Facing Adversity


BBBS is utilizing their Bigs Only Facebook Page, our Parent/Guardian Facebook Page, our Big App and email messages to share resources for how to continue relationships virtually, how to access community food, mental health and other resources etc. Staff members are also providing direct service (transportation assistance, access to technology, etc.) to matches, including family support through trauma-informed care best practices.

Projected Impact:

Currently, BBBS is serving 900 matches, with a waiting list of over 100 Littles. Funds would provide sustaining resources, in terms of access to and attaining technology, food, healthcare, and other critical resources.

Program supported: Meal distribution to club families


Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands (BGCM) is currently serving life-saving meals to our Club members and their families. Evening meals are one of our daily programs and, with our Clubs currently closed, we were concerned that our youth were not getting a nutritious meal. In response, we are serving over 1000 FREE meals per day to our Club families through grab-and-go meal pick-up stations. This costs approximately $50,000/month at this rate. Distributing meals gives our staff the ability to see our Club families, give them hope in this scary time, and assess the needs of our membership in real-time. We see the need for these evening meals increasing exponentially the longer the pandemic closedowns last.

Projected Impact:

BGCM is working to identify the cost per meal to determine how many families will be served.

Program supported: Food Access


Emergency Supportive Food Program (Pantry): food pantries (located at the JDC and SMdP) are serving a record number of hungry Omaha families. Pantries remain open during normal hours (Monday-Friday), but function differently. To limit person-to-person contact, they are providing pre-packaged food boxes at the pantry doors. Volunteers — who are the lifeblood of our Pantry Program — are working in small groups and use personal protective equipment. Delivering food to a growing number of seniors who have been referred to us from partner agencies or our Senior Program.

Projected Impact:

Catholic Charities provides access to food for 15,248 individuals and families.

Program supported: Child and Adolescent Therapy


CSI continues to provide telehealth services during the pandemic while facing a decrease in revenue due to reductions in in-person visits. CSI made significant capital investments in response to COVID-19 to help the staff work remotely. This includes laptops and cloud-based software to help programs continue functioning.

Projected Impact:

CSI serves 350 people per year.

Program supported: Peer Support for Shelter Initiative


The Peer Support staff are currently working out of Community Alliance’s Safe Harbor site, which houses our peer-run crisis diversion program. At this time, guests at the emergency shelters are able to call Safe Harbor and be directed to the peer staff they know and are familiar with. If in-person needs are identified, peer staff pre-screen for any present symptoms such as fever, new cough or respiratory illness. Emergency shelters are taking every precaution given the large number of persons congregated in one location. Limiting exposure of outside persons coming into the shelters is a part of the prevention measures to better protect everyone. Safe Harbor was chosen as the temporary work site for peer staff since it is a program that was established to assist individuals when they are experiencing distress and in avoiding a psychiatric hospitalization and continues to answer calls 24 hours a day which supports continuity of service for the peers responding to sheltered guests needs.

Projected Impact:

Community Alliance provides peer support to over 450 individuals impacted by homelessness, this is also a strong partnership with Rhonda Hawks and The Kim Foundation, both have matched funding for this program.

Initial food assistance supported Foodbank for the Heartland and Together, Inc. Initial healthcare assistance supported OneWorld Community Health Centers and Charles Drew Health Center.

Program supported: Cleaning supplies and hygiene products for those impacted by COVID-19


Agency partners participating on a weekly education call related to food distribution identified that families need cleaning supplies and hygiene products. A workgroup lead by Partnership 4 Kids, Girls, Inc. and the NorthStar Foundation sourced and purchased items to create 2,000 kits to hand out.  Kits will be handed out at agency food distribution sites.  Each agency will receive 100-200 kits to hand out.

Projected Impact:

2,000 different families will receive cleaning supplies and hygiene products.

Program supported: LFS Behavioral Health Programs


To continue to provide care during the pandemic via Telehealth, investments in technology are needed. Investments have been made in technology of roughly $50,000 (computers, phones, virtual telehealth rooms, personal WiFi devices, etc.).

Projected Impact:

LFS can serve 225 people a day via telehealth.

Program supported: Community Response-Book Buddy/College and Career Readiness


In response to COVID-19, social distancing and school closures, Partnership 4 Kids (P4K) has been intentional and strategic in providing 1,677 pre-k through third-grade students with resources for their academic needs and also in supporting their basic needs through close collaboration with school administrators and other community organizations. During the week of March 23rd, P4K delivered 4,715 books (the remainder of the 14 total books each student receives for the program year) to our six target schools. Book Buddy Program books were packaged with each student’s schoolwork packets provided by their teacher and were distributed to students’ families at each of the six schools.

Projected Impact:

In addition to our modified program efforts, program staff is participating in additional outreach efforts to address the basic needs of all P4K students and their families during this difficult time. Staff has volunteered to help with packing and distributing meals and supplies for students and families as well as connecting them to additional community resources.

Program supported: Home Health Care


  • The cost to care for COVID-19 patients varies based on levels of comorbidity. Costs run from $1,961/patient over four (4) weeks to $6,113.81/patient over eight (8) weeks (for those with significant comorbidities). Patients served through United Way programming are some of the first referred to VNA by local doctors, and are the least likely to have costs reimbursed.
  • $8,000/month in PPE (personal protective equipment) and supplies that assure the safety of clinical staff in the field. Necessary equipment includes N-95 masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer, gowns, and disinfectant wipes. Caring for this patient population requires a significant amount of PPE use and replenishment in order to protect all.
  • $8,050/month for unlimited Synzi virtual video usage as a creative alternative for patients, caregivers, referring providers, and families to safely communicate. The Office of Civil Rights has waived HIPAA requirements for virtual visits and tele-monitoring, which allows VNA to provide visits to the most vulnerable and “at risk” patients. For example, VNA can monitor medication compliance, assess patients’ health status, demonstrate and educate on simple procedures, evaluate status of wounds, reinforce home exercise programs for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, and reinforce wound care.
  • $2,982/month for 100 GB increase in data usage. A significant increase in Synzi video communication (above) impacts data usage by VNA staff.


Projected Impact:

Dollars will assist 20 community members that are underinsured or uninsured, in need of care to recover from a potential or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and without other options to secure care.

We want to share a special thanks to those who gave to our COVID-19 Relief Fund!

And more than
community partners
came together to help during this unprecedented time of need in our community.


Thank you!

Helping Our Community Stay Informed

COVID-19 Resources and Community Assistance


Our team has put together a COVID-19 resources page containing guidance from Nebraska Medicine, NE and IA health departments and community assistance information. This page is being updated regularly with additional information and resources gathered from the 211 Helpline.

Education Resources to Foster At-Home Learning


We understand how vital it is to help children stay on track academically. Because students are no longer spending time in the classroom due to the widespread closing of schools and before-and-after school programs, they need academic support more than ever.

To help parents keep their children occupied, entertained, and most importantly, learning, we’ve compiled local and national education resources in one, easily accessible webpage.

Volunteer Opportunities


Local nonprofits need YOU during this difficult time as more people than ever need help with food, housing, healthcare and more.

Opportunities range from giving blood to creating inspiration cards for individuals and families staying in a shelter, blog writing, helping maintain a donor database and recording read aloud videos for local students.

KETV NewsWatch 7 Roundtable Discussion


United Way of the Midlands President and CEO, Shawna Forsberg, was interviewed during KETV’s roundtable segment alongside Albert Varas, Executive Director of the Latino Center of the Midlands and Tom Warren, President and CEO of Urban League of Nebraska. Together, they discussed our community’s needs and how nonprofit partners are stepping up to help.

Special thanks to KETV for featuring United Way of the Midlands for their Giving Wednesday series on April 29th!

 Nonprofits’ Response to COVID-19 in our Community


Our nonprofit partners are working overtime to meet the community’s needs during this trying time.


  • Mental health practitioners are providing telehealth services to Child Saving Institute clients.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands is serving 1,000 meals a day to their club families.
  • OneWorld Community Health Centers’ team has been re-deployed to screen patients for COVID-19.
  • Food pantries have implemented drive-up options and are seeing a record-high demand for food assistance, with many pantries reporting that a percentage of families are not receiving food before food distribution ends.


The scope of the situation is continually evolving, but current statistics indicate the following:


  • There are currently more than 123,000 unemployment claims in Nebraska and more than 313,000 in Iowa (Economic Policy Institute).
  • Between March 21 and May 9, almost 50,000 individuals filed new unemployment claims in Sarpy and Douglas County (Department of Labor, NE Works).
  • Economists are now predicting a 15.1% unemployment rate in Nebraska and a 14.2% unemployment rate in Iowa for July 2020 (Economic Policy Institute).
  • Across the US, more than 38.6 million people have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic.

New Funding Cycle for Nonprofit Programs Funded
by United Way of the Midlands


Our community investment directors have been in touch with nonprofits across the metro in order to assess the community’s needs and determine how United Way of the Midlands can be of assistance. Many nonprofits are being faced with making very difficult decisions about their programming and the care of their clients and employees.

In response, we modified the 2020 community investment process to a 1-year grant cycle for 2020-2021. This change allows more flexibility to address community needs and the changing landscape. UWM prioritized funding for programs that are immediately responding to the pandemic and providing basic needs supports.

Click here to view our current investments for 2020-2021.

These programs and initiatives will work together to provide Basic Needs, Education and Financial Stability support so our neighbors in need can access an entire Circle of Support. Investments were made possible by the generous support of individual donors, corporate partners, family foundations, our Board of Directors, our 2020 Campaign Chairs, James and Paula Blackledge and YOU!

Charitable Deduction Changes for 2020


On March 27th, 2020 President Trump signed the final $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package into law. It includes a new financial incentive for individuals and companies to make donations to qualifying charities such as United Way of the Midlands and our community partners.

Make A Difference By Donating Today


Our neighbors need us more than ever.

COVID-19 has left thousands more people struggling to meet their needs. Faced with fewer volunteers, higher demand and limited funds, nonprofits are struggling to keep up and they can’t meet people’s many needs alone. You can provide a Circle of Support for our neighbors by making a gift today!

Click here to learn more about the Circle of Support your gift provides.


Special Thanks


We are so grateful to this community for coming together during times of crisis. Thank you for your support, strength and passion for helping others.You make our #CommunityStrong! We know that the need will remain great, but we are confident that, together, we can continue to help those who are struggling.


United Way of the Midlands   |   2201 Farnam Street   |   Omaha, NE 68102   |   402-342-8232

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