In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges around the world. In the United States, a lack of adequate health infrastructure, the emotional and psychological impacts of the pandemic, and loss of life tested rural and urban communities alike. At the same time, impact to industry and job markets across the country created substantial economic challenges.
Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on nonprofit organizations and other institutions that provide a wide range of vital services to people in need, CoBank’s board of directors committed more than $1.4 million to COVID-19 relief efforts. The bank’s charitable response included:
- A $1 million increase to the Sharing Success program for 2020.
- A $200,000 grant to the National Rural Health Association.
- A $150,000 contribution to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and University of Colorado Hospital.
“CoBank has found that one of the most impactful ways to deploy our charitable funds is to do so in partnership with our customers,” said Tom Halverson, CoBank’s president and chief executive officer. “By increasing funding to Sharing Success, we were able to rely on our customers’ local insights to identify the most critical needs in their communities. Ultimately, more than $1.4 million in combined Sharing Success contributions went to support organizations and programs responding to the pandemic.”
CoBank’s grant to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) helped fund the creation of the Rural COVID-19 Technical Assistance Center (TAC), a collaborative effort to provide technical assistance and share information across rural healthcare systems. Experts at NRHA and partner organizations are working with rural hospitals and clinics, state offices of rural health, NRHA members and others to provide information about critical financial resources available through the CARES Act, Payroll Protection Program, Federally Qualified Health Center grants, Rural Health Clinic grants and more.
By increasing funding to Sharing Success, we were able to rely on our customers’ local insights to identify the most critical needs in their communities.
Tom Halverson, CoBank’s president and chief executive officer
“Before COVID, 48% of rural hospitals operated on a negative margin,” said Alan Morgan, chief executive officer of NRHA. “The cancellation of elective and non-emergent services to cope with the pandemic has pushed many organizations over the edge into financial catastrophe. By providing information about available programs and resources, NRHA is hoping to provide a financial lifeline to these critical facilities.”
In addition, NRHA is coordinating with nonprofit organizations and manufacturers to help rural healthcare providers obtain stable and reliable sources of personal protective equipment—a challenge that has been ongoing since the earliest days of the pandemic.
“It is clear that collaboration is critical in responding to this pandemic,” said Morgan. “The TAC continues to provide all resources at our disposal to help manage continuously changing priorities and to develop a stronger infrastructure for our rural communities.”
CoBank’s contribution to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus helped the organization to prepare its response to the COVID-19 epidemic in Colorado and throughout the region. Funding from CoBank and other benefactors allowed the campus’ leading researchers to explore and define new possibilities for the prevention and treatment of the virus and provided resources to prepare and protect the hospital’s doctors, nurses and other frontline team members.
“This is the most important challenge our generation of healthcare will face,” said Richard Zane, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado and the lead for UCHealth’s novel coronavirus response and vaccination efforts. “The philanthropic support received from CoBank and other generous donors has given UCHealth the flexibility to allocate resources to the greatest needs of our patients, families and caregivers during this unprecedented pandemic. It will also position us to learn as much as possible from this crisis and to better prepare for future public health challenges.”
In addition to these contributions, the bank established a $50,000 fund to match COVID19-related donations by its associates. CoBank employees responded generously, utilizing the full amount of the fund within weeks. As a result, the bank increased the available match to $100,000.
“In a year when so many have faced unimaginable challenges, CoBank associates rose to the occasion time and time again to help those less fortunate,” said CoBank’s Halverson. “I am constantly inspired by their personal generosity and demonstration of the cooperative spirit.”