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in the spotlight
Announcing fast-tracked COVID-19 research grants
As part of our global response to the growing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the American Heart Association is committing $2.5 million to research how the virus interacts with heart and brain systems. The Association will offer fast-tracked research grants for short-term projects that can produce results within 9 to 12 months to better understand the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and clinical management of COVID-19 as it relates to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health. Additional funding will be available to the Association’s new Health Technologies & Innovation Strategically Focused Research Centers to develop rapid technology solutions for dealing with the pandemic.

Through the COVID-19 and Its Cardiovascular Impact Rapid Response Grant initiative, the Association will fund one national coordinating center and at least 10 project grants of $100,000 each. Applications are due by April 6, awardees will be announced in May, and projects will get underway by June.

“We are committed to quickly bringing together and supporting some of the brightest minds in research science and clinical care who are shovel-ready with the laboratories, tools and data resources to immediately begin work on addressing this emergent issue,” said Association President Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA, Arthur L. Bloomfield Professor of Medicine and chair of the department of medicine at Stanford University.

Reports from the United States and other countries indicate that people with high blood pressure, heart disease or a history of stroke may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, with mortality rates two to three times higher than in the general population. There also have been accounts of infected people without underlying complications developing deadly arrhythmias and inflammation that damage heart muscle. Strokes and other brain diseases also have been reported among COVID-19 patients in China.

I am proud of our volunteer leadership and staff for Bringing Science to Life so quickly to initiate vital research during these challenging times.

If you’re a researcher, get involved and
apply online.
  changing policy
Stimulus bill includes relief for nonprofits. Is it enough?
Following marathon negotiations, the Senate approved the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act — the largest emergency aid package in U.S. history at $2 trillion. During a recent call including me and other nonprofit leaders, President Donald Trump personally thanked nonprofits for our leadership during the pandemic. The House is expected to vote on the bill today.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will reportedly attempt to pass the package through the House by proxy voice vote, to avoid all House members traveling back to Washington. If any lawmaker requests a vote by roll call, the House will need to reconvene, further delaying final passage.

Collectively, nonprofits generate 5.4 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and employ 12 million people. That’s why it is imperative that Congress prioritize relief to ensure charities across the country continue our vital work. While provisions in the current proposal such as Small Business Administration Loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants and a universal charitable deduction may help some nonprofits, much more is needed.

As Congress considers additional relief, we urge them to:
  • Pass the Legacy IRA Act, a policy that will help nonprofits with longer term recovery.
  • Expressly provide charitable nonprofits with $60 billion in any emergency funding proposals.
  • Create a robust universal charitable deduction by raising the cap and allowing post-March 1, 2020, donations to be claimed on 2019 and future tax returns.
  • Ensure all nonprofits qualify for new small business loans and remove the 500-employee caps.
Join us in sending a message to lawmakers by tweeting #Relief4Charities, tagging members of Congress, and sharing stories of what charities mean to you and your communities.
  Transforming Communities
Boston ‘steps up’ virtual engagement with Amazon
When the Boston Heart Walk team received word Amazon would soon require employees to work from home, they quickly mobilized and created a novel activity to engage this new group of remote workers in the American Heart Association mission. Under the leadership of Carleen Tucker, development director, the team pivoted from a traditional Heart Walk to a Healthy for Good steps challenge during Move More Month in April. The goal is to turn small daily steps into huge strides toward better health through activities such as 10 minutes of stretching, 20 minutes of vacuuming, one hour of dancing each week, and more — all while raising money toward Heart Walk.

“We’ve made this request of Amazon before, but recommending this solution at the right time for remote employee engagement was a win-win,” Carleen said.

Getting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination each week is linked to lower risk of disease and depression and improved mental health and cognitive function. This will be especially vital while sheltering in place and working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congratulations, Boston, for Meeting People Where They Are.

Serving seniors on Chicago’s South Side
As coronavirus spreads and cities shut down, the specter of hunger looms for low-income seniors sequestered in their homes with no access to meal service. With government agencies stalled on how to protect this at-risk population, organizations like Sweet Potato Patch in Chicago are leaping into action. Starting next week, the South Side nonprofit — an investee of the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund — will deliver free daily meals to 100 senior households in Washington Heights.

Stacey Minor, founder and CEO of Sweet Potato Patch, describes the meals as “healthy with a touch of soul,” including dishes like spinach-stuffed salmon, gumbo with scallion rice or rotisserie chicken with black-eyed peas. She said, with additional funding the service area will expand to meet demand. Meanwhile, the Association is working with the Chicago Housing Authority, Trinity United Church of Christ and other community partners to identify seniors in need, particularly those with underlying health conditions like heart disease or diabetes.

Visit Sweet Potato Patch online, and discover ways you can help them serve more seniors.
Special Announcements
Kick Cabin Fever to the Curb!
With students and families across the country adjusting to a new e-learning environment, keeping children physically active and mentally engaged is more important than ever. Enter Kids Heart Challenge Virtual, a 10-day program inviting families to “Kick Cabin Fever to the Curb!” Highlights include engaging in a daily physical activity challenge, practicing kindness and preparing heart-healthy meals together, while continuing to support the American Heart Association. More than 1,400 schools have registered so far and we expect that number to grow. Thank you to staff for Inspiring Passionate Commitment and helping to ensure our educators, students and communities stay healthy during this time.
Uplifting parents with new ERG
The ingenuity of the American Heart Association never ceases to amaze me. Our ability to nimbly respond to the needs of communities, including our own Association family, is evident at every turn. I’m so grateful to each of you for supporting one another during this time of change, and I salute Kate Sawa, Katie Pryor and Shawn Castellanos for volunteering to activate our newest employee resource group – Parents at Heart. Over 500 team members participated in our first meeting this week. If you missed it, catch up with this recorded session. If you are interested in joining, please email
Coronavirus: What heart and stroke patients need to know
Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, the American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention, answers most frequently asked questions about coronavirus and its impact on patients with heart disease and a history of stroke.

Social Impact Fund: Year 1
This time last year, the American Heart Association announced the Social Impact Fund to address social determinants of health, because where you live should not determine how well or how long you live. To date, we’ve activated more than $12.8 million in new funding for 19 organizations that are breaking down social and economic barriers to health. Let’s reflect on the year with Raymond Guthrie, managing director of the Fund.