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The DeVos Family’s strategic use of the Kent County Relief Fund

April 29, 2020

Two weeks ago, we posted an article about a COVID-19 relief fund that the DeVos-funded AmplifyGR organization had announced. We noted in that article that the relief project was in partnership with the Family Independence Initiative and the Koch brothers created group, Stand Together.

In that initial announcement from AmplifyGR, they stated:

A generous group of Kent County residents have partnered with a nonprofit called the Family Independence Initiative (FII) to create a fund for families that are experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19.

Well, we now know that the “generous group of Kent County residents,” is actually referring to members of the DeVos family. The project is called the Kent County Relief Fund and the funding has come from 4 different DeVos family foundations – the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, the Dan and Pamela DeVos Foundation and the CDV5 Foundation.

Now, it’s not just the funding that the DeVos family is providing, the address for the Kent County Relief Fund is 48 Fountain St. NW, Grand Rapids, which is the address for the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation.

As of a few days ago, the Kent County Relief Fund post an update stating that the fund had given away all of its available resources. People still apply, but they will be put on a waiting list. The update also noted that   the Kent County Relief Fund has given $1,679,000, which seems like a lot of money. However, considering the wealth of the DeVos family, this is like contributing $20 for most of us. In fact, as we reported 10 days ago, the DeVos family members, and all other millionaires and billionaires in Kent County, will get on average $1.7 million (each) in a tax break as part of the Care Act. Therefore, between the four DeVos foundations that have providing the funding for the Kent County Relief Fund, they would collectively be receiving $6.8 million in tax breaks for doing nothing. It seems to be that the DeVos foundations should provide another $5 million to the relief fund, since they got these funds from an unjust tax policy that was crafted by the same politicians that the DeVos family funds through campaign contributions.

There are also several other important things to point out about the Kent County Relief Fund.

First, the application process for the Kent County Relief Fund has very similar conditions that we see in other charity-based assistance. People have to present some form of government issued ID and provide tax returns or a recent pay stub. This kind of scrutiny carries with it the same shame-based conditions that those experiencing poverty too often experience. 

Second, the community partner list provided on the Kent County Relief Fund’s website is very instructive. These nonprofit supporters  and partners are not just random entities, rather they were deliberately selected since virtually all of these groups have some major DeVos connection.

This means that of the 23 partners working with the Kent County Relief Fund, 20 of them have a direct connection to the DeVos family. The only nonprofits partners that do not have a direct DeVos family connection are Dwelling Place, River City Scholars Charter Academy (part of the National Heritage Academies – J.C. Huizenga) and Michigan Works.

The fact that the majority of nonprofit partners working with the DeVos-created Kent County Relief Fund should tell us something. First, the DeVos family is very strategic and does not like working with entities that they cannot control. Second, most of these groups are Christian in orientation, which is what the DeVos family prefers. Third, the nonprofits are not known for challenging systems of power and oppression in Grand Rapids, which means they do not exist to fight the structural or root causes of the problems of the people they serve.

Lastly, while I am glad for the families that have received the $500 funds provided by the Kent County Relief Fund, but make no mistake about it, this project is designed only as a form of charity. More importantly, the very people that the Kent County Relief Fund has provided money to, are the same families who have been negatively affected by the policies that were created by the politicians that the DeVos family has funded over the decades, policies which have benefited the millionaire/billionaire class and punished poor families, especially families of color.

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