As Americans adapt to shuttered schools, restaurants and offices, the coronavirus pandemic is exposing shortcomings in the U.S. social-safety net and a system that relies heavily on philanthropists to fill the gaps.

San Francisco, Seattle and other cities with high concentrations of ultra-high-net-worth individuals are getting more money than less affluent ones. Meanwhile, some philanthropists have so far been absent from the relief efforts as nonprofits worry the .001% may be guarded in their giving with a global recession all but assured.

Despite a coronavirus stimulus package expected out of Washington, state and local governments are warning they might not have the money to adequately run hospitals and respond to the economic fallout, said Patriotic Millionaires Chairman Morris Pearl, whose group advocates raising taxes on the wealthy.

“If the rich people were paying their fair share, we’d have more resources,” Pearl said.

More than $1.9 billion has been pledged globally by companies, public charities, family foundations and individuals to fight Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to Candid, a nonprofit research and support organization. That’s more than what was donated for hurricanes Katrina and Harvey and the Australian bush fires combined.

In the U.S., the total stands at just over $560 million, about a fifth of it from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, also pledged $40 million to a global response fund and $75 million to a New York City impact fund.

Griffin, Dalio
Last month, two hedge fund heavyweights, Citadel’s Ken Griffin and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, and their companies donated a total of $17.5 million to fight the disease in China. Griffin’s firms donated an additional $2.5 million last week to Chicago’s food bank and public school systems.

Still, most American philanthropists initially refrained from public announcements of large gifts.

“The response to health epidemics is usually handled by nation-states or international organizations,” said Andrew Grabois, Candid’s manager of corporate philanthropy. “In the Ebola outbreak, for example, the problem was seen as too large for family foundations to make an impact and many were scared away from donating or getting involved.”

Philanthropic funds didn’t start flowing from the ultra-rich in the U.S. until the number of coronavirus cases started spiking at home and authorities began locking down cities, states and the nation’s borders.

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