Gov. Charlie Baker and First Lady of Massachusetts Lauren Baker have introduced a new coronavirus relief fund that aims to raise money for the state's most vulnerable communities. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with First Lady Lauren Baker to learn more about the fund. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: Can I start by asking how the first family is doing? Everyone's safe and sound and dealing with life in our new world?
Lauren Baker: Thank you for asking. Yes, everyone in the Baker family — knock on wood — is safe and healthy and trying to adjust to this new reality.
Mathieu: And in your case, I can only assume dealing with a spouse who's spending a heck of a lot of time at work lately. A lot of us are having trouble sleeping these days, Mrs. Baker, and I'm going to guess you can relate.
Baker: I can definitely relate. But having a spouse who spends a lot of time at work is nothing new in my life. And he's holding up well and he is working 24/7. I'm really proud of the work he's doing. I think the Baker team is doing the best possible job they can for the people of Massachusetts.
Mathieu: Well, we got to see the Baker team in action yesterday. And by that I mean the two of you. Congratulations. You say you've already raised $13 million.
Baker: Yes, we're really grateful to a handful of founding donors who made it possible to launch this, [the] Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund with $13 million. But that's just the beginning. We need to at least double that number. The sky's the limit for how much money we need to raise to meet the need of people across Massachusetts during this crisis.
Mathieu: I'd love to ask you about how this money will be distributed, but in terms of raising it in a time like this, I wonder how challenging that is considering the fact that we're dealing with some real economic hardship right now.
Baker: That's true. This period in time is a challenge for everyone, that's for sure. But Massachusetts has proven time and again that we step up to support each other in times of need, and this is certainly one of those times. It's really been overwhelming to me to see the generosity of the people of Massachusetts, and it's corporations, organizations and individuals all who are going on to macovid19relieffund.org and donating. Just since yesterday, we've grown substantially and we're incredibly grateful, but there's a lot of need to fill and there's a lot more that we can do to build this fund so that it can meet the need.
Mathieu: So if we've got $13 million now, you say you want to double that number. Would that come from individuals as well as some of the outfits that you've been dealing with, the organizations you mentioned?
Baker: Absolutely. Every donation matters. So whether it's $5 or $5 million or anything in between, every single dollar will go toward meeting the needs of people in communities all across Massachusetts. So, yes, we're asking individuals who are in a position to donate $1, $5 or $25, and we're asking corporations who are in a position to make a donation. We're asking everyone to consider looking at this fund and reaching out to help their neighbors all across Massachusetts.
Mathieu: How will you determine then who gets the money? There are obviously a lot of places this can go, and you mentioned yesterday you'd like to funnel it through community organizations who are already enjoying relationships with the people who need it most.
Baker: Exactly. We need to get this fund up and running and get the actual resources out into the communities as quickly as possible. And we're going to be working with a network of excellent community foundations who have deep roots in their communities and the ability to assess the need and deploy the funds quickly and effectively so that people in need in various communities will get the resources they need as quickly as possible.
Mathieu: I know this really started a minute ago, I'm sure it seems like to you. Are you still kind of figuring out that framework for how dollars will be distributed?
Baker: Well, I think like most things these days, it is morphing a little bit. But the community foundations have a long history of knowing where the need is and being able to distribute funds within their communities. And the needs are different in different communities across Massachusetts, so we're going to depend a lot on the existing infrastructure of these community foundations to help us assess the need and deploy the grants.
Mathieu: I'm sure it's going to be a long road ahead. We're talking about weeks of the surge here, which the governor has talked about in detail. We're looking at the prospect of a couple of really scary weeks and I wonder, First Lady, if you have any words for people who are waking up this morning worried about their family, worried about the position that the state of Massachusetts is in as we walk into a very uncertain time.
Baker: Well, I think this is an unprecedented and frightening period of time, but Massachusetts always steps up. We have proven time and again in the face of disaster of one kind or another that we will work together and support each other. And I'm sure that Massachusetts will step up and the people will support each other and work hard to overcome the challenges that we face in the coming weeks. I think we will emerge stronger for it. It's going to be frightening and it's already frightening, but I know that Massachusetts is resilient, compassionate and strong, and we will get through this together.