United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is setting up a fund to support families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing as much as $2,000 to help people buy food and pay for childcare and housing needs.

In a statement announcing the COVID-19 Family Support Fund, Michael K. Durkin, president and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, said two out of every five workers in Massachusetts lack enough savings to withstand a sudden loss of wages.

“With public events, schools and workplaces shuttering as the pandemic unfolds, hourly, low-wage workers will experience unprecedented financial hardship,” he said.

“The problem is acute for hospitality workers, retail workers, and other hourly workers, many living paycheck to paycheck, with no clear options for recouping lost wages.”

The COVID-19 Family Support Fund is being created by mobilizing United Way’s broad network of nonprofit agencies, Durkin said in the statement.

With 100% of donations going directly to help families in need, the fund is aimed at giving cash assistance to help families weather the crisis.

Durkin said United Way’s network of agencies for the COVID-19 Family Support Fund includes nearly 20 organizations in Eastern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.

These agencies have a proven and long track record of working with United Way to administer flexible emergency assistance for families impacted by income disruption, according to the statement.

He noted that several hundred thousand children across the state rely on federally funded school-based programs for one or more meals each day during the week.

“And in this uncertain time, many nonprofit agencies will face financial disruption,” Durkin said. “Postponed or cancelled fundraising events, leading to a loss of funding that community-based organizations depend on for their regular program work and operations will put serious pressure on nonprofit operating budgets.”

United Way also announced that it’s collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to use United Way’s Mass 2-1-1 statewide consumer hotline to provide consumer help during the public health emergency. Individuals can dial 2-1-1 for comprehensive information and referrals related to the virus, including information on where they can access flexible funds through the COVID-19 Family Support Fund.

More on the web: unitedwaymassbay.org

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