New Minn. fund will help families of front-line workers killed by COVID

Health care workers test patients at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site.
Health care workers test patients in their cars at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in Las Vegas. A Minnesota-based foundation has launched a nationwide effort to raise funds for the families of health care workers killed by COVID-19.
John Locher | AP Photo file

Update: 6:45 p.m.

A new fund launched Monday by a Minnesota-based foundation will raise money to support the families of health care workers killed by COVID-19. 

The Frontline Families Fund is being spearheaded by the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation and University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, who has been appointed to President-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus task force.  

A report by Kaiser Health News found that about 1,400 health care workers around the country have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Osterholm said it’s health care workers who have put their lives on the line to take care of patients during this pandemic.

“Just as they were there to support us and care for us during this pandemic,” Osterholm said. “In many cases, they’ve left behind loved ones, in many cases in dire financial states, and it’s our job as a society to thank them, to be there for them.” 

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Jeremy Wells, the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation’s senior vice president of philanthropic services, said they aim to raise millions of dollars for scholarships for family members of medical workers who lost their lives, as well as two phases of direct grant giving. 

The first phase will be grants of up to $10,000 for initial expenses of a loved one’s death. The nationwide fund also aims to address the disproportionate impact COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous and people of color in the United States, including medical workers. The second phase of grants could award up to $60,000, some of which will be decided based on need.  

"That's where we look at some of these other screening pieces, the socio-economic need,” Wells said. “It's very different if the individual was, let's say, a nursing aide who might have been the sole provider in their family, versus a surgeon who had a ten million dollar life insurance policy."

The foundation is partnering with two other national organizations, Scholarship America and the Brave of Heart Fund, to ensure the funding can be allocated quickly using existing systems. The Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation will focus on boosting the message and fundraising, Wells said. The goal would be to provide grants to the family of every health care worker who has died. 

"We need hope right now, we need acts of kindness,” Osterholm said. “I can't imagine any groups of individuals who would appreciate and deserve that more than these family members of these fallen heroes."