In the past few weeks, efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus have had an unprecedented impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.


Please know that Truman Heartland Community Foundation is here to help. This includes creating a new section on our website focused on nonprofits serving Eastern Jackson County during COVID-19 and fast-tracking our 2020 competitive grants cycle to offer flexibility and funding to nonprofits when they need it most. We are also reaching out to food pantries, school districts and church programs throughout the area in a coordinated effort to support people laid off due to the coronavirus.


As nonessential businesses shuttered to observe stay-at-home orders and Centers for Disease Control guidelines, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. In Missouri, more than 252,000 people filed new unemployment claims in the first three weeks of April. And according to estimates released on Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute, job losses of this magnitude would translate into an unemployment rate of 18 percent – higher than at any point since the Great Depression.


There is a lot of uncertainty in our lives right now. Hardworking people throughout Eastern Jackson County are struggling to provide essentials for their families and are navigating the unemployment system for the first time.


Our recently launched Job Skills for New Careers initiative can help. A collaborative partnership with the Community Services League, Herndon Career Center, Mid-Continent Public Library and University of Central Missouri, the new Truman Heartland Community Foundation community initiative will provide tuition-free job training and support to help people get on the path to higher paying, in-demand careers and break the cycle of poverty.


The training is in fields that pay living wages and are in high demand in the region, including health care, other medical fields and skilled industrial trades. These services will all be provided at no cost to the participants.


We are committed to this work now more than ever, but it would not be possible without community support. Support from generous Community Foundation fundholders who have contributed nearly $110,000 to provide trainings in 2020. It’s possible thanks to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which has provided a $60,000 grant so that participants will receive wraparound support services, such as public benefits counseling and financial coaching that will help remove barriers that may prevent program participants from reaching their goals.


The stay-at-home orders have put the training that would be happening right now on pause. On April 29, we will meet over Zoom with our collaboration partners to chart our path forward. Learn more about the Job Skills for New Careers initiative and how you can support this effort at www.thcf.org/job-skills.


Each of us already know or will soon know someone who is unemployed because of this crisis. Our program can particularly benefit those working in low-paying retail or restaurant jobs who have been laid off in huge numbers. Please share this information with them and encourage them to visit newskills.cslcares.org and complete a simple application. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis with trainings starting as soon as possible. Help us spread the word about this program while containing the spread of the virus.


Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through cooperation with community members and donors. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816.836.8189.