Health care workers are heroes of COVID-19 – serving on the frontlines throughout the pandemic. These individuals have been particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of the pandemic.
More than 115,000 health care workers died within the first 18 months of COVID-19’s spread. In addition, 18% left the medical field during that period due to the stresses and strains of the pandemic.
In April 2020, the Cigna Foundation partnered with New York Life Foundation and E4E Relief to launch the Brave of Heart Fund to provide monetary grants to the families of frontline U.S. health care workers who gave their lives in the fight against COVID-19. To date, the Brave of Heart Fund has delivered financial relief to 909 families, disbursing over $31.5 million.
“Every doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and health care worker on the front line of this pandemic made and continues to make incredible sacrifices. Day in and day out, they care for their communities and put the health of others ahead of their own. For some, that meant sacrificing their own life in order to heal others."Susan Stith, vice president of DEI, corporate and employee giving, and president of the Cigna Foundation
"Unfortunately, the pandemic took so much from so many, and for those health care heroes who lost their own lives to COVID-19, we grieve with their families," Stith continued. "We hope that through the financial support and emotional resources of The Brave of Heart Fund, those families who experienced loss have some peace of mind.”
Cigna, in partnership with New York Life and E4E Relief, is honored to receive a Gold Halo award from Engage for Good. The award, which was part of the organization’s annual Halo Awards, recognized Brave of Heart Fund as this year’s best COVID-19 Initiative. The Halo Awards honor corporate social impact initiatives that showcase outstanding consumer engagement or employee engagement efforts. Below we take a look at some of the ways the Brave of Heart Fund has helped the families of frontline workers who died in the battle against COVID-19.
Helping Keep Families of Health Care Workers in Their Homes
More than half of the grantees saw their household income drop to under $50,000 as a result of losing their loved one. Grants from the Brave of Heart Fund helped two-thirds of the recipients pay their rent or mortgage, allowing them to stay in their home.
“This grant came at a time when I was completely unprepared to deal with managing the financial aspects of our household,” said the wife of a nurse from Rockland County, New York. “One of the things that I most admired about my husband was how he kept our family safe. We were never in fear of losing our home or missing a payment. He was an excellent provider. Being thrust into this new role, where I had to step into his shoes, was difficult for me.”
Financial Stability and Basic Life Needs
Losing their loved ones to COVID-19 had a big impact on grantees’ financial stability. The vast majority of recipients said they were late paying bills, and one-third had to skip meals or downgrade their food choices. One quarter reported they skipped or delayed medical care and needs, such as refilling prescriptions.
“Brave of Heart Fund literally saved me and my children from bankruptcy,” said the wife of a physician assistant in Richmond, Kentucky. “We could not have made it without the help. While we’re so appreciative of the help we received from friends and co-workers, it would not have lasted even a month to cover bills and expenses. We would have been homeless. We also would not have been able to mourn properly, from worrying constantly about where our next meal was coming from.”
Supporting the Mental Health of Families Struggling With Grief
Dealing with the loss of a loved one takes a mental toll on families. Funding through the Brave of Heart Fund freed grantees to focus on healing. Additionally, those with dependents and children were able to focus more on these personal relationships and on the health of their families.
“Thank you for supporting and understanding that the loss involves more than just losing a physical person,” said the wife of a physical therapy assistant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “There’s loss of income, grief, the burden of now being a single-income household, stress, stigma, and fear. So grateful!”
Hope for Moving Forward and Recovering
More than two-thirds of grantees report being somewhat, moderately, or very confident that their households are doing what is needed to meet longer-term goals like saving for retirement or future education. They feel hopeful about moving forward, have reduced stress, and feel less alone after being awarded the grants.
“This fund has helped my family out in so many ways,” said the husband of a nurse from Fort Wayne, Indiana. “Our lives will never be the same. There is no amount of money that can take away the grief, but it can give us hope for a better tomorrow as we learn to carry on without our loved ones. When I was thinking about our future and how to best move forward, Brave of Heart reached out and showed me that someone out there truly cares. All I can say is, thank you all for giving me a chance to give my kids a future. I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but I do know that today is a lot better than yesterday.”
More Work to Do
Cigna, New York Life, and E4E are continuing their work with The Brave of Heart Fund to support the bereaved families of health care workers lost to COVID-19. The Fund has formed partnerships with nonprofit organizations to:
- Provide scholarships to the families of frontline health care workers who lost their lives in the fight against COVID-19
- Support the emotional well-being of health care workers
- Build resiliency for families who lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19 by providing grief and bereavement support
- Build a diverse health care workforce by supporting education and training
Continuing to Suport Families of Deceased Health Care Workers
The Brave of Heart Fund continues to support the bereaved families of healthcare workers lost to COVID-19 as they adjust to their new realities.