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COVID Crisis Could Force Closures, Job Losses at Utah Nonprofits

Utah's food banks are among the state's nonprofit organizations that are struggling to provide services due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Utah Food Bank)
Utah's food banks are among the state's nonprofit organizations that are struggling to provide services due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Utah Food Bank)
August 24, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY -- During the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Utahns and millions of Americans have turned to nonprofit groups to help them weather the storm.

But what happens when those organizations also fall into a crisis?

Utah has more than 10,000 nonprofit organizations, but with donations falling off, many are struggling to find the resources to continue their mission.

Kate Rubalcava, chief executive officer for the Utah Nonprofit Association, said charities feed, heal, shelter and nurture people in need, no matter their age, gender, race, faith or economic status.

"Nonprofit organizations, especially here in the state of Utah, we are the safety net," Rubalcava said. "We are the place where people go when their world has spiraled out of control."

Rubalcava said Utah's nonprofits had almost $15 billion in gross revenues in 2019, but the pandemic will force significant financial losses in 2020. That means thousands of Utah's most vulnerable people must look elsewhere for assistance.

She said her group recently surveyed its members and found about one in four organizations said it was unlikely it would survive the crisis.

That would mean unemployment for 20,000 or more employees of Utah nonprofits.

"How do we do all the service delivery, how do we gain revenue to be able to do that service delivery, and how do we also then make sure that the critical work that we're doing within our communities can actually continue?" Rubalcava said.

She added it will take money from a variety of sources to restore Utah's private safety net.

"We're going to need contributions from the community," Rubalcava said. "We're going to need government interventions, and we're going to need business and corporate to also step in to help nonprofit organizations weather this crisis."

Rubalcava said charities depend on private donations and grants to funds their operations, and government programs like Paycheck Protection Program loans and the CARES Act have helped keep their doors open during the crisis. But now, she believes their future is uncertain.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT