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El Paso’s YWCA is caring for first responders’ children while facing its own financial crisis. How coronavirus is hammering nonprofits.


Medical professionals and first responders are relying on the YWCA of El Paso for child-care services while they respond to the coronavirus pandemic. But the agency’s CEO worries how long that can continue as the YWCA Paso del Norte Region faces its own unprecedented financial crisis.

“We have an amazing team and they are committed to helping the community get through this. We are partnering with UMC, Providence, City of El Paso and County of El Paso to provide services,” CEO Sylvia Acosta said.

But El Paso’s YWCA, like nonprofits across the country, is seeing funding vanish as both individuals and philanthropic organizations reduce support in the face of a global recession.

“I will tell you that this probably has been one of the most financially devastating  moments to our organization. We are bracing for a huge hit,” Acosta said.

Many nonprofits are facing a double hit, said Deborah Zuloaga, CEO of United Way of El Paso County. Demand for services is escalating as funding evaporates.

“It’s unprecedented. We went through the global downturn in 2008, but that was kind of a slow, slow tide. This has been in a month. We’ve seen, just at every level, so many impacts on services, on funding, on capacity, on the ability to deliver services,” Zuloaga said.

Nonprofit leaders nationwide have called on Congress to provide $60 billion to nonprofits as part of an unprecedented relief package.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said nonprofit service providers will be key in helping El Paso get through coronavirus-related issues.

“I have been and will remain in close communication with nonprofit leaders and have advocated to ensure their needs are met in a third coronavirus response bill so they can continue to help those in need and rebuild our community,” Escobar said.

Alejandra Y. Castillo, the CEO of YWCA USA, cited El Paso in a recent plea that nonprofits be included in coronavirus relief measures being considered by Congress.

“In El Paso, Texas, the local government turned to trusted community partner YWCA to provide child care for the city and meet the emergency child care needs of healthcare workers. The YWCA El Paso is not only staying open, but offering extended hours for parents who are doctors and nurses, so they can continue to care for the sick,” Castillo wrote in a post co-authored by Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits.

“They are literally undergirding El Paso’s response, but without additional revenue, they may not be able to keep their centers open and staffed, which would leave nurses, doctors, police officers, health department workers, and so many other essential community workers without child care for their children,” Castillo and Delaney wrote.

El Paso’s YWCA currently has six child-care facilities open during the day, but that number could be reduced as staffing and participation numbers change, Acosta said.

“Right now we are not expanding to evening care. If it becomes necessary we will but it will depend on the staffing available,” she said.

Child care is one of many services provided by the YWCA, including affordable housing, a transitional living center for families who have faced abuse, and early childhood education.

Like many nonprofit, El Paso’s YWCA has been forced to postpone its major annual fundraiser, the Women’s Luncheon that had been set to feature actress Laura Linney next month.

In addition to a funding decline, El Paso nonprofits also have seen a steep drop in volunteers as people stay home in compliance with physical distancing recommendations, Zuloaga said.

“I don’t know what the future holds. It’s scary. It’s just really frightening,” she said.

Acosta and Zuloaga encouraged people to continue to donate to nonprofits to fund vital needs. The United Way and Paso del Norte Community Foundation have established the El Paso COVID-19 Response Fund to raise money for nonprofits and connect people with volunteer opportunities. 

“At this point we are praying and hoping that a stimulus package is put together for nonprofits, especially those on the front lines,” Acosta said.

Disclosure: El Paso Matters founder Robert Moore is a board member of United Way of El Paso County.

Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. He spent most of his career at the El Paso Times, serving in a variety of leadership roles. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Burl Osborne award for editorial leadership, the James Madison Award from the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation, the Jack Douglas Award from Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Frank W. Mayborn Award for Community Leadership from the Texas Press Association. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award from the National Press Association. As a freelance journalist, Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on the border by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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