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Arnold Ventures Contributes More Than $10 Million to COVID-19 Relief Efforts

We wanted to contribute in ways that we believe effectively aid at-risk populations,’ says Co-Chair John Arnold.

Arnold Ventures is contributing more than $10 million to assist in the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This initial support is a combination of charitable relief funds to cities hardest hit by the pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout; donations to help accelerate evidence-based research into possible coronavirus treatments and prevention; a grant to strengthen accountability into stimulus funding; and a loan to assist first responders access much-needed protective equipment.

This is a crisis of unprecedented proportions, and we wanted to contribute in ways that we believe effectively aid at-risk populations,” said John Arnold, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Arnold Ventures. Vulnerable communities are the most likely to fall through the cracks, and we believe it is a responsibility of philanthropy to fill in those gaps.”

The Houston-based philanthropy will give $1.2 million to aid in the relief efforts in its hometown, which has suffered a double blow of collapsing oil prices, and another $4 million to other local communities hard hit by the pandemic, including New Orleans, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Albany, Georgia.

In addition to the gifts to at-risk communities, Arnold Ventures is also providing: 

  • $2 million to support Fast Grants, a newly created group offering expedited funding to scientists working on COVID-19 related projects
  • $800,000 to the Project on Government Oversight for a project to strengthen oversight by inspector generals and create more transparency into how stimulus funds are being spent
  • $2 million loan to a broader effort facilitating the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers

Laura and John have also contributed $3 million in emergency support through The City Fund, a joint collaboration with Reed Hastings, which will be distributed across 14 cities where it has active grants.

The donations announced Monday by Arnold Ventures, a national philanthropy co-founded by Laura and John Arnold, further underpin the organization’s longstanding mission to solve the nation’s most pressing problems. The deepening pandemic has shed new light on the systemic dysfunction that Arnold Ventures has long sought to reform, adding new urgency to the organization’s efforts to seek evidence-based policies to create a more equitable society. 

From criminal justice to health care, higher education to public finance, COVID-19 has revealed in stark relief the serious failures across our society that we worked for years to bring attention to — failures that most harm people who are already living on the edge,” said Laura Arnold, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Arnold Ventures. Now, more than ever, it’s vitally important for us to continue our efforts, and we will continue to pursue and support solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice.”

Among the contributions earmarked for vulnerable populations, Arnold Ventures is giving $1 million to the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund, which is aimed at meeting the basic needs of those impacted by the pandemic and by the economic crash, particularly low-wage workers who live paycheck to paycheck. 

Established by the Greater Houston Community Foundation in collaboration with the United Way of Greater Houston — two organizations with expertise coordinating disaster response efforts in the aftermath of Houston’s devastating floods — the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund is also committed to supporting area nonprofits as they continue serving the community throughout the pandemic and during the recovery period. 

Arnold Ventures will allocate an additional $200,000 in the Houston area to other locally based groups dedicated to helping at-risk populations access emergency funds.

Houston is our home, and it pains us to see the place we love suffering,” Laura Arnold said. This community’s resolve and grit are legendary. We are deeply humbled to be able to help our city get back on its feet.”

The remaining $4 million will be split between specific geographical regions struggling to combat the virus that need further support to aid in their relief and recovery efforts. The following allocations have been made, so far: 

  • $300,000 to the Greater New Orleans Foundation;
  • $600,000 to the Louisiana Governor’s Fund;
  • $375,000 to the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan (representing Detroit)
  • $450,000 to the Greater Milwaukee Community Foundation 
  • $300,000 to the Greater St. Louis Foundation
  • $150,000 to the United Way of Southwest Georgia COVID-19 Fund (representing Albany, Georgia)

Additional donations will be distributed to other at-risk jurisdictions, to be announced soon. 

Arnold Ventures selected the cities to support based on the virus’s greatest impact and spread — taking into account the limitations of the testing data; an analysis of a community’s existing social vulnerabilities, such as high rates of uninsured individuals, lack of access to quality healthcare, high rates of pre-existing conditions and other social determinants of health; and a review of the existing philanthropic landscape within serving the affected community. 

The virus seems to wreak the most damage on vulnerable places which may not get the attention of some of their larger, and better-funded counterparts,” said Kelli Rhee, President and CEO of Arnold Ventures. We are actively looking for opportunities to contribute our evidence-based ideology to help them better serve and respond to the needs of their residents. But this is not the totality of our support. We know that as this virus continues to spread, the need for assistance will continue to grow. While we are gratified for the chance to give now, we will continue to examine and explore ways that we can participate in the response and the recovery efforts.”


Arnold Ventures is a philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States. Founded by Laura and John Arnold in 2010, Arnold Ventures’ core mission is to improve lives by investing in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice. More information about Arnold Venture’s work is available at www​.arnold​ven​tures​.org.