Gerstner Philanthropies COVID-19 Response

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  • The Rent Eats First, Even During a Pandemic
    August 31, 2020

    Before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 800,000 people around the nation were threatened with eviction each month. Today, with unemployment levels unseen since the Great Depression and the expiration of federal benefits along with national and several state eviction moratoriums, millions of renters are at risk of losing their homes by the end of the year. Medical professionals have sounded the alarm about how the eviction crisis will exacerbate our public health emergency. At the beginning of August, 26 medical associations signed a letter urging Congress to provide housing resources to renting families, recognizing the housing crisis to be a health crisis. Our efforts to defeat Covid-19 and recover from the economic damage it has wrought will be deeply compromised if we fail to help families keep their homes. Besides pushing up coronavirus infection rates, the eviction crisis will also aggravate our unemployment crisis, as workers get displaced far from their jobs, and it will further complicate school reopenings, as evicted children, themselves at heightened risk of infection, shuffle from one school to the next.

  • 2020 Gerstner Family Career Development Award Recipients Announced

    The Mayo Clinic has announced this year’s recipients of the Gerstner Family Career Development Awards. The awards provide early career investigators across the Mayo Clinic enterprise with important seed money to conduct research to predict, prevent, treat and cure disease using individualized medicine approaches. Dr. Veronique Belzil, one of this year's recipients, is focused on improving diagnosis and treatment of ALS and FTLD. “Having lost a loved one to ALS, I’m driven by my desire to cure this devastating and fatal neurodegenerative condition,” Dr. Belzil says. Dr. Feichen Shen, another 2020 award recipient, is working to accelerate the translation of cancer drug repurposing into clinical practice by leveraging AI techniques. Dr. Shen says the Gerstner Award will allow him to continue his investigation in developing AI techniques to support the delivery of individualized medicine in practice. Gerstner Philanthropies has invested over $6.3 million in this program since 2008.

  • Racial inequities will grow if schools don’t open safely this fall. Here’s an action plan.
    July 28, 2020

    Lou Gerstner, retired chairman and CEO of IBM and founder of the Gerstner Family Foundation, recently published an Op-Ed in USA Today on the issue of reopening schools safely and effectively in the Fall. "Our national consciousness about racial inequity has been lifted to welcomed new heights in the past few months. The issue now is what exactly is going to be done to reduce inequity. Tearing down statues won’t contribute anything. Individuals committing millions of dollars to community action groups will help, as will increased commitment by business leaders to open up career ladders for people of color. However, despite all the good that might come from these welcomed changes, we are about to deliver a blow to the Black and Latino communities that will set back racial equity enormously. That blow is the failure to fully open K-12 schools, in particular those in large urban centers, in September."

  • The Long and the Short of Emergency Cash Grants
    July 21, 2020

    Government stay-at-home orders created widespread economic distress among millions of displaced workers. Almost as fast as the economic shutdown washed away their pay, however, donors across the country sprang into action. Many givers who had never before considered small emergency cash grants began to offer them. Small cash gifts to otherwise self-sufficient parties battered by a cruel twist of fate are one of the oldest forms of philanthropy. Emergency grantees are not long-term recipients whom a donor can get to understand over time. They require snap assessments of which cases are most worthy, and how best to aid them. As plenty of givers who have tried quick-cash distribution in the past can attest, faulty judgment in dispensing cash can encourage bad behavior, waste money, and even delay necessary adaptations by households. On the other hand, intelligent, compassionate action can prevent a temporary stumble from turning into deep trauma. Fortunately, there are donors who have been at this kind of work for years, including the Gerstner Family Foundation. “I think people often shy away from doing direct-cash assistance because in the foundation world it’s seen as non-strategic, not getting at a root cause,” says Kara Klein of the Gerstner Family Foundation. “But in my mind, it’s one of the most strategic things you can do—to help a family stay in their home and out of a tumble into economic instability.”

  • Gerstner Scholars Share Thanks in ‘Have Faith, Our Future is in Good Hands!’ Initiative
    July 7, 2020

    The Diocese of Palm Beach Office of Catholic Schools is the proud recipient of a grant from the Gerstner Family Foundation that supports scholarships for high school students who exhibit high academic achievement, service and leadership. This past school year, 54 students were honored as Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Distinguished Scholars at Cardinal Newman High School, John Carroll High School and Saint John Paul II Academy. The scholarships were awarded through an application process, which required the recipients to write a letter to Mr. Gerstner sharing with him their experiences from the past year. To highlight the resilience and positive attitudes of these students, the Office of Catholic Schools will be starting a special initiative on July 1, 2020 titled, “Have Faith, Our Future is in Good Hands!” For the next three weeks, the Office of Catholic Schools will highlight profiles from various Gerstner Distinguished Scholars from Cardinal Newman High School, John Carroll High School and Saint John Paul II Academy.

    Read messages from Gerstner Scholars here.