Around four months ago, a coalition of people from different social service nonprofits, humanitarian, philanthropic, and faith-based organizations, among others, came together to support undocumented immigrant families in San Luis Obispo County in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group is SLO County UndocuSupport. Since their creation, they have received over $100,000 from grants and charitable donations from both donors and organizations.
The organization was established as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit people in all areas of the workforce but perhaps most impactfully those that cannot receive any federal relief or stimulus money because they do not have social security numbers.
“It is happening all over the United States and in California especially where there are a lot of undocumented workers who are losing their jobs or their hours are being cut and as a result are facing food insecurity and are not receiving any federal money,” Gina Whitaker, a founding member of SLO UndocuSupport told The Atascadero News. “The important thing to remember about these families is that they come from areas all over the county but have one thing in common: they are not eligible for any of the federal stimulus money that was handed out. They are left out because they don’t have social security numbers even if they are working; they file taxes under another type of number, but because they don’t have social security numbers, they cannot receive any of the federal stimulus.”
The only support undocumented workers and families have received since the beginning of the pandemic came in April when Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state was contributing $75 million in a Disaster Relief Assistance fund aimed at providing financial support for immigrant workers affected by COVID-19.
The relief fund allowed undocumented families to claim $500, once, with a limit of two per household. However, with over 150,000 undocumented workers in California, the money didn’t last long.
“We have over 9,000 undocumented people in this county, and so you can see that that amount of money would not go very far,” Whitaker stated. “It really only provides enough money for 1 in 10 undocumented people as a one-time check for up to two people in the family.”
Shortly after forming, SLO UndocuSupport partnered with the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County and has begun to have grants approved for families in the county.
The Community Foundation, which supports or has supported just about every nonprofit in the area, is committed to serving the most vulnerable demographics in the county and has opened its Disaster Relief Fund in the wake of the pandemic.
The 22-year-old organization gives out between $2 and $5 million a year to various nonprofits as well as a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships to local high school graduates but is currently focused on disaster relief.
“The disaster support fund is unique in that it is set up only when there is a disaster,” said Heidi McPherson, CEO of the Community Foundation. “So, it is a fund that the community foundation essentially opens for anyone to make a charitable contribution for that particular disaster. We opened it up a couple years ago when Napa had the earthquake, for example, or when Santa Barbara had the fire. Because of COVID, we opened it up in March and put a little bit of our own money into it so that we could give some grants to organizations right away, and then additional funds just kept coming in.”
With their focus always on the most vulnerable demographics, the Community Foundation has been using the disaster relief fund to help three groups in particular, but not exclusively, during the pandemic in seniors, children, and families who are facing food shortages due to school currently being closed and undocumented families.
Some have wondered if there is a separate “undocu fund?” There is not, and this makes the partnership crucial. The Community Foundation receives donations and awards them on a grant-based system for several organizations, including SLO UndocuSupport.
Over the past couple of months, the Disaster Relief fund, which takes no fees and operates strictly as money in and money out, has raised $300,000 and has awarded five grants to SLO UndocuSupport and the organizations they work with totaling $40,000.
The SLO UndocuSupport coalition works in partnership with North County organizations like Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (CAPSLO) and the Center for Family Strengthening. Both have advocates working with people seeking assistance.
Not only has the Community Foundation approved grants for SLO UndocuSupport, but it has also connected the coalition with the Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR). They have given $120,000 to the cause. The GCIR is committed to helping immigrants across the state and has committed to raising $50 million to help families in need.
SLO UndocuSupport has helped over 100 local families and continues its fundraising efforts. Those wishing to donate to SLO UndocuSupport or get more information can go to its website https://sloundocusupport.org/. Anyone wishing to donate to the Disaster Relief fund directly can find the link of the Community Foundation’s website www.cfsloco.org/.