Banks focus charitable giving on fighting coronavirus

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Officials at Texas Capital Bank in Dallas were paying close attention when Parkland Health & Hospital System began to grapple with the challenges of responding to the novel coronavirus making its way across the globe.

So when Dallas County’s public health system said it needed help to fight the pandemic, the bank stepped up and offered $100,000 to help purchase new machines for testing, screen community members using mobile care vans, provide hotel space for patients to be monitored — including homeless ones — and offer lodging to nurses and other hospital caregivers who need to stay close to coronavirus patients.

As more COVID-19 cases are confirmed — there were more than 68,000 nationwide as of Thursday with nearly 1,000 deaths — banks around the country are making similar decisions to use some of their charitable giving dollars to assist with medical relief efforts.

Officials in some states where the outbreak is currently surging, particularly New York, California and Washington, say medical supplies, testing kits and ventilators are in short supply and hospital systems are at risk of being overwhelmed by patients.

JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States, pledged $5 million to organizations that will provide emergency medical supplies, food and other health-related necessities, including $2 million to the World Health Organization to buy protective equipment for health care workers, expand laboratory capacity and speed up efforts to develop a vaccine against the disease. The funding is part of the bank’s $50 million commitment to address the immediate public health and long-term economic disruption caused by the pandemic.

Wells Fargo pledged $1 million to the CDC Foundation and $250,000 to Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps, which does work in more than 30 countries around the globe. The CDC Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will use the money to support state and local health departments and buy personal protective equipment and critical response supplies. International Medical Corps will use the money for things such as staff training related to screening patients and infection prevention and control.

Truist Financial in Charlotte, N.C., pledged $1 million apiece to the CDC Foundation and Johns Hopkins Medicine. The money will come from the Truist Charitable Fund.

“In this growing crisis, one of the most immediate needs in [the bank’s] communities is for medical supplies to effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” Truist Foundation President Lynette Bell said in an email. “We’ve developed a comprehensive philanthropic response to support a broad range of both short-term and long-term needs to help our communities during this challenging time.”

Eastern Bank in Boston will give $500,000 to 41 community health centers — 18 in the greater Boston area and 23 regional centers in other parts of Eastern’s three-state footprint.

“The levels of disruption, uncertainty and resulting stress our community, local economy, and we as individuals and families are experiencing are unprecedented," Eastern Chairman and CEO Bob Rivers said in a news release. “When so many are facing such widespread negative impacts, the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation is focused on helping our community partners do what they do best — providing critical skills and services to the community where they’re needed most."

Ally Financial has pledged $3 million to help the communities in which its employees live and work — including $1 million to its headquarters city of Detroit and $1 million to Charlotte, where many of its senior leaders, including CEO Jeffrey Brown, are based.

On Thursday, an Ally spokeswoman said the bank’s dollars will go to “local hospitals to provide medical supplies, food, transportation assistance and temporary housing for doctors, nurses and other staff members who are working ever-longer hours.”

At City National Bank in Los Angeles, CEO Kelly Coffey said the bank’s $2 million pledge is “the single-largest donation ever [made] in order to help health care providers fight this terrible virus and to address humanitarian needs.” The money will be distributed to a variety of nonprofit organizations across the bank’s footprint, including International Medical Corps and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Bank of America will commit $100 million in philanthropic grants to help communities deal with the pandemic. Andrew Plepler, BofA's global head of environment, social and governance, said the bank's donation will "help increase medical response capacity, address food insecurity, increase access to learning as a result of school closures and provide support to the most vulnerable populations in communities around the world."

But the bank is still working through who gets funding and how much those groups will receive.

"Our local markets are assessing local needs and deploying the funds to our partner organizations to maximize the impact of our support," he said in an email.

Some banks are pledging more than just dollars. Texas Capital, for example, transformed its Wi-Fi-equipped mobile disaster vehicle — which had been used as a full-service banking center after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in August 2017 — into a home away from home for nurses who need a place to upload patient information and take a quick break.

Providing the vehicle for as long as Parkland needs to use it allows the health system to keep its own fleet of vehicles at full force, said Effie Dennison, the bank’s director of community development and corporate social responsibility. Dennison also sits on the board of directors of the Parkland Foundation, which raises money for the health system.

And there’s more to come. Throughout its markets in Texas, the bank has reallocated the rest of its charitable funds — about $500,000 — to help local nonprofits deal with the pandemic.

“We see this not as a sprint, but a marathon,” Dennison said. “We’re going to be at it for a while.”

Paul Davis contributed to this story.

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Corporate philanthropy Healthcare industry Coronavirus JPMorgan Chase Truist Financial Wells Fargo