UWNEMN expanding COVID-19 outreach: financial assistance available to Iron Range individuals

United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN) has raised just over $90,000 so far for its COVID-19 Crisis Fund on the Iron Range, and the organization is ready to start putting those funds to work in the region.

UWNEMN had intended for funds raised to support local partner agencies that provide critical services and programs like Buddy Backpacks and United for Veterans, but the fund’s purpose has expanded to include assistance to individuals as well.

“Because of our experience distributing funds to individuals and families in need due to previous mass layoffs within the mining industry and our current United for Veterans Crisis Fund, we feel that we are the organization best suited in the region to provide this critically needed support,” said UWNEMN Executive Director Shelley Valentini.

The application for individuals to apply for up to $1,000 of financial assistance for basic living expenses opens today. The application and distribution process is similar to other crisis funds UWNEMN has operated:

  • Individuals will create online accounts to apply for assistance with their basic living expenses. (Click here to make an account.)
  • Individuals will be asked to provide documentation of the expenses as well as other financial documentation.
  • UWNEMN will review applications.
  • If an application is approved, UWNEMN will directly pay the bills submitted for assistance. Funds will not be distributed directly to individuals.

In order to qualify for assistance, individuals must live within UWNEMN’s service territory and must demonstrate a financial loss due to unemployment or reduction of hours on or after the Governor’s Emergency Executive Order dated March 13, 2020.

Careful consideration has been made to ensure that small business owners and employees, including service industry workers, who may not be receiving help from other sources are able to apply for UWNEMN COVID-19 Crisis Funds.

“We know there are some people in our region who have not been able to work for weeks without receiving much needed assistance,” Valentini said. “We encourage those individuals to apply for funding and call us with any questions if they find barriers in the application process.”

UWNEMN COVID-19 Crisis Funds will not be available to individuals who were not working prior to the pandemic or have other support systems in place. Instead, UWNEMN will continue to partner with local agencies to make referrals and work with individuals on a case-by case basis. In addition, individuals in need of assistance are encouraged to dial 2-1-1 to connect with United Way’s 24-hour helpline in Minnesota or to click here for a list of local resources.

Valentini anticipates the need for individual assistance in our region will be high and estimates UWNEMN will need to raise closer to $200,000 on the Iron Range to make an effective difference for individuals, agencies, and programs in our region.

“We are so grateful to all the people, companies, organizations, and foundations that have helped us grow our fund,” she said. “But we know we have a lot of work left to do.”

To date, donations have been committed by the Northland Foundation, Twin Metals MN, Minnesota Power Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Virginia Community Foundation, Chisholm Community Foundation, anonymous donors, and many individuals. In addition, the Dwight and Lorraine Jamar Foundation is currently offering to match Iron Range donations to the crisis fund up to $10,000.

UWNEMN also serves Koochiching County, with funds raised in that service territory remaining there.  A separate UWNEMN Koochiching County COVID-19 Crisis Fund is being generated to assist individuals in that region. The application for Koochiching County residents will be forthcoming, once a pool of funds is built up.

Both funds are special crisis fund with no administrative costs associated, so 100% of funds received by UWNEMN will go directly to local agencies, programs, and individuals in the regions they were raised.

Click here to donate to UWNEMN's COVID-19 Crisis Fund online. Donations can also be mailed directly to 608 East Drive, Chisholm, MN 55719. Donors can specify which region their donation should be designated to online or in the memo of their check.