Kessler Foundation Awards COVID-19 Emergency Grants to Grantees Serving People with Disabilities in New Jersey

East Hanover, NJ. May 15, 2020. Kessler Foundation awarded nearly $1 million in COVID-19 emergency grant funding for nonprofits faced with the challenges of serving people with disabilities in New Jersey. The recipient organizations were current or former grantees of Kessler Foundation’s employment grant program. Since 2005, the Foundation’s grants program has awarded more than $49 million to nonprofits that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities striving to work, adding diversity to American workplaces and boosting productivity.

“When the pandemic reached New Jersey, the effects on our grantees were devastating,” noted Elaine E. Katz, senior vice president of the Center for Grant-making and Communications at the Foundation. “Being in the front lines of serving people with disabilities, a population at higher risk for infection complicated the ability of our grantees to adapt to this new reality. To help these organizations remain viable, we knew we needed to respond immediately.”

Kessler Foundation quickly established the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which provided 37 emergency grants of $10,000 to $40,000 to help with unanticipated needs and expenses. A rapid response team was formed to review and approve applications. Technology was often the priority for organizations rapidly converting to remote operations – for their staff, as well as for their clients with disabilities who now needed alternatives to connect with their families, teachers, and counselors.

Grants also helped cover costs of personal protective equipment, and supplies and services to meet new federal and state requirements for sanitation and safety measures. Furloughs and layoffs continue to affect staff and the people with disabilities they serve, increasing the need for employment services, and creating demand for assistance with applying for unemployment and other benefits. For the many organizations dependent on in-person contact, the emergency funding is being used to develop new ways to continue their work, according to Katz. They are adopting alternative ways of connecting people with one another and with online resources, which is accelerating the acceptance of remote training and education, working from home, and telehealth and teletherapy.

The Newark-based GI Go Fund received a grant for its Jackson Drysdale Veterans Center, which anticipates tripling of the number of veterans needing employment services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Drysdale Center is the only one of its kind in New Jersey, according to Jack Fanous, the Center’s executive director and GI Go Fund’s CEO. “The Center also serves as an incubator for veteran-owned small businesses,” said Fanous, “helping them succeed as profitable and sustainable enterprises.”

Some of the Drysdale Center’s businesses have already adapted to serve their communities, producing masks and sanitation supplies, and providing virtual fitness classes to families sheltering at home. “With this additional support, we can provide microloans to our veteran entrepreneurs, and assist them with applications for disaster relief, including options available through the Small Business Administration, specifically the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL),” Fanous added. “Once again, Kessler Foundation has shown its commitment to those who have served.” 

“The new reality affects all of us,” said Katz, “but people with disabilities are being affected disproportionately. Our COVID-19 emergency grants are giving New Jersey organizations that serve this population a chance to adapt to this new reality, so we can continue toward our collective goal – helping individuals with disabilities reach their goals of independence and self-sufficiency.”  

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

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