United Way

A sign showing the progress of the United Way of Albany County’s 2018 fundraising campaign is displayed on the University of Wyoming campus in 2019.

The United Way of Albany County will be stepping up efforts to help nonprofits with challenges stemming from the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, with a major fund drive.

“We are going to blow up what we’re doing — magnify our coronavirus emergency fund,” Executive Director Paul Heimer said.

United Way announced last week that it would be giving out mini-grants to nonprofits as concern about the virus grows. But with seven applications approved and grant applications out to more folks than United Way currently has money for, Heimer said the organization will be moving forward with a fund drive to try to raise between $10,000 and $20,000.

“It’s not only for prevention, but to mitigate the economic hardship we’re sure is coming,” Heimer said. “We’re expecting increased demands at places like Interfaith (Good Samaritan) and the (Laramie) Soup Kitchen and other places. We need to be ready to help the community.”

Those interested in making a contribution can go to www.unitedwayalbanycounty.org or send a check to United Way of Albany County, 710 E. Garfield St., suite 240, with a note that it is for the emergency fund. To apply for a grant, county nonprofits must contact Paul Heimer at pheimer@unitedwayalbanycounty.org or 307-745-8643.

Heimer said he’s hopeful United Way will be able to reach its goal for the emergency fund. He looks back to the March 2018 fire that destroyed several trailers in Wade’s Trailer Court, leaving many without a roof over their heads.

“We were quickly able to raise the funds needed to help those families,” Heimer said. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do the same thing here — maybe more.”

With a growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Laramie County — there were four confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon — county Health Officer Stanley Hartman issued an order Thursday morning closing some public places, including bars and restaurants. Similar measures have been put in place in Teton and Park counties. Gov. Mark Gordon on Thursday ordered all public places be closed. The White House this week also advised Americans to avoid public venues like restaurants and bars and not gather in groups larger than 10.

Many establishments in Laramie have already adjusted hours, gone to only serving customers with curbside efforts or outright closed. Even at this point without a government order to close establishments, the economic cost locally is being felt.

The federal government response to the economic hardships growing nationwide continues to develop in what is one of the largest stimulus packages ever. The first phase included $1 billion in loan subsidies for small businesses; the second, signed into law Wednesday, includes two weeks of paid sick and family leave, increased funds for Medicaid and food security programs and increased unemployment insurance benefits; the third, a $1 trillion proposal put forward by the Treasury Department, would include two rounds of direct payments to taxpayers, $300 billion in small business loans, $150 billion for affected industries and guaranteed money market mutual funds.

Gordon applied this week on behalf of the state for access to the Small Business Administration federal disaster loans.

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