In response to urgency stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has removed all restrictions from $6.3 million in program grants, allowing recipients to use the money freely as they see fit.

Normally, the grants may be used only for specific purposes.

“Because of these unprecedented times, and to be true partners to these agencies whom we’ve worked with for many years, they’ll have the flexibility to use the funds where they have the greatest need,” said Rena Kopelman, Jewish Federation’s vice chair of planning and resourcing.

The $6.3 million — the federation has also released an additional $2.3 million for organizations in Israel — is separate from the group’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which provides support for organizations hard-hit by the pandemic. A federation spokesperson said that more than $1.3 million has been raised for the COVID-19 response fund so far, with just over half already distributed to more than a dozen organizations in Philadelphia and in Israel.

Kopelman said that the now-unrestricted grants were initially made for three years in 2017, and have been extended for two additional years.

“While we certainly value the programs we’ve been funding for the past four years, we recognize they may not be the most critical, they may not be viable right now, or they may not be able to run as initially intended," she said.

Among the organizations who are freed from funding restrictions is KleinLife, the community center in Northeast Philadelphia. KleinLife was set to receive $632,000 from the Jewish Federation to support its adult-life program, which helps elderly people live independently. Instead, the money will go to provide meals for the hungry throughout the Northeast, federation officials said.

KleinLife usually provides more than 1,500 meals every week, mostly prepared by volunteers in community kitchens. But due to social distancing, KleinLife has closed its kitchens and relied solely on catered meals. At the same time, demand has skyrocketed. The week of April 20, KleinLife delivered 3,992 meals to families, more than a doubling of the usual number, federation officials said.

KleinLife intends to use the entire grant to ensure that anyone, Jewish or non-Jewish, who wants a meal can receive one.

The Jewish Relief Agency planned to use its $95,000 federation grant to help alleviate the everyday burden of poverty for nearly 4,000 Jewish clients in Philadelphia. The JRA has provided monthly deliveries of free food and essential household items.

The unrestricted funding will be used directly to support JRA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the use of warehouse personnel to pack delivery boxes — in lieu of the normal large volunteer effort. JRA estimates that since the beginning of the pandemic, food costs have risen 30%, making the need for more funds even more critical.

Grant funds will also help JRA cover operational expenses, including utilities, security, and maintenance.

Local organizations receiving federation funds include Abramson Center for Jewish Life, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Challah for Hunger, Cheder Chabad of Philadelphia, Hillel at Drexel, Federation Housing, Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, Foundation for Jewish Day Schools, Golden Slipper Center for Seniors, Gratz College, Greater Philadelphia Hillel Network, HIAS Pennsylvania, and InterfaithFamily;

Also: Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, JEVS Human Services, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Jewish Farm School, Jewish Learning Venture, Jewish Relief Agency, Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence, KleinLife, Kohelet Yeshiva High School, Kosloff Torah Academy, Makom Community, Moishe House, Moving Traditions, OROT, Penn Hillel, Penn State Hillel, Perelman Jewish Day School, Politz Hebrew Academy, and Hillel at Temple;

In addition, The Chevra, The Friendship Circle, Torah Academy, and Tribe 12.