Emergency funds for local residents out of work: Where to go and how to apply | News | Palo Alto Online |


Emergency funds for local residents out of work: Where to go and how to apply

$11 million available for those impacted by coronavirus

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Millions of dollars are now available for residents who have lost wages due to the new coronavirus from an emergency fund that was cobbled together in recent weeks by local companies and public agencies trying to stave off homelessness and displacement.

On Monday, a coalition of nonprofits and major employers in Santa Clara County announced a $11 million fund to cover rent and other basic needs for low-income families who have lost income as a result of the coronavirus, either due to health care costs or lost work. Santa Clara County, the city of San Jose and Cisco are the largest contributors, pitching in $2 million each.

County supervisors approved the $2 million contribution in a 5-0 vote Tuesday, citing a need to move fast so families who are unable to work under orders to stay home can stay housed and pay for basic necessities. Board President Cindy Chavez said many families need the stopgap measure after they saw paychecks drastically reduced or dry up completely, while Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said now is not to the time to be frugal with the funds.

"Our financial future is uncertain at this moment, but the urgency of the moment, I believe, demands decisive action," Ellenberg said. "People are hurting right now."

At the same time, the city of Mountain View is launching its own smaller-scale relief fund specifically for renters who have lost income, with an eye towards middle-income residents who may not qualify for regional programs. At the federal level, early details are emerging Wednesday morning about a $2 trillion stimulus package that allocates $250 billion for payments to families and $350 billion in unemployment benefits.

Though local unemployment figures have yet to show the true impact of the spread of coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in an announcement Wednesday that more than 1 million Californians have applied for unemployment benefits so far this month.

The big challenge facing city and county officials is making sure people actually receive the help as soon as possible, with Chavez encouraging county staff and her colleagues to go on an information blitz to ensure struggling residents get the help they need.

County funding and how to apply

• Total funding: $11 million

• Assistance per household: Up to $4,000/month

• Eligibility: 80% of the Area Media Income (AMI), resident of Santa Clara County

• Best contact: Community Services Agency (CSA) of Mountain View and Los Altos, 650-968-0836

The $11 million fund at the county level, dubbed the COVID-19 financial assistance program, is being run by the organization Destination: Home, which is currently directing interested residents to Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose.

While Sacred Heart is the main point of contact and is spearheading the effort, individual nonprofits that make up the county's Emergency Assistance Network will still be able to tap into the funds on behalf of needy families. That includes the Community Services Agency (CSA) in Mountain View, said Tom Myers, CSA's executive director.

Anyone interested in the financial support must be a resident of Santa Clara County to qualify, and must have a household income of less than 80% of the area's median income to qualify — roughly $104,000 for a family of four. They must also show proof of loss of income as a result of the coronavirus.

Each household can receive up to $4,000 per month in direct financial assistance.

As of Wednesday morning, Sacred Heart had been inundated with phone calls and emails from residents seeking to apply for emergency aid, overloading the nonprofit's voicemail system and crashing its website. Demone Carter of Sacred Heart told the Voice that they had received 1,600 phone calls since Tuesday and have four staff members dedicated to going through the requests, but it has been difficult to keep up.

"We have an $11 million fund that our public and private partners cobbled together and that's great, that's something," Carter said. "But the need is so much greater than that, and us as a local nonprofit, we're doing the best we can infrastructure-wise to accommodate that."

Online submissions have since been disabled with plans to upgrade the system and bring it back online on Thursday, March 26. While residents interested in receiving aid can call the designated phone number at 408-780-9134, Carter said the best bet is to email covid19help@sacredheartcs.org until further notice.

Interested applicants are being asked to gather proof of income prior to March 1, 2020, including up to three pay stubs for those with fluctuating work hours, as well as more recent documentation showing the financial impact of COVID-19. This could include employer notices of termination or reduced work hours, a letter from schools or child care facilities or a doctor's letter that shows someone has been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19. Identification for all adults in the household will be requested as well.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.


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2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2020 at 9:35 pm

According to Gavin Newsom, five of the nation's largest banks are suspending residential mortgage payments for at least this month. This includes Wells Fargo, US Bank, Citi, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. In fact, Bank of America is actually extending their moratorium on mortgage payments even longer.

It would be nice if the federal and state governments worked with banks to accomplish this -- but with the stipulation that this moratorium is passed down to renters too. I realize that some property owners already fully-own their properties. It would be nice if something could be arranged for them too (so that they, in turn, could pass such a moratorium to their renters).

2 people like this
Posted by High Cost of Living
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2020 at 11:22 pm

"At the federal level, early details are emerging Wednesday morning about a $2 trillion stimulus package that allocates $250 billion for payments to families and $350 billion in unemployment benefits. "

Yeah, except as usual, there is no sense of the difference in cost-of-living across the country, so the places hardest hit by the pandemic lockdowns and illnesses will not get help except to the people on the very bottom rungs, and in the rest of the country, even wealthy people will get the funds. Add this to the horrendous tax increases only levied on people in the high cost-of-living states (with all the disadvantages in refinancing, etc), and there is going to be a lot of people losing their homes. Steven Mnuchin looks ebullient. (Look up how he profited from 2008, in case you haven't.)

Isn't it about time the Congress used a cost-of-living multiplier on limits when it comes to high cost of living states? Using the Sperling best places cost of living calculator (which doesn't include taxes or child care, by the way, so it doesn't even account for the fact that someone in the same economic stratum on the costs is paying far more in taxes), if the limit on getting the stimulus is $198,000 per couple, then the equivalent to someone in many middle states is:

If you are making $198,000 in many parts of the country, like many parts of TN, that's the equivalent economic situation of someone making $1.3 million in Palo Alto.

On the other hand, someone in Palo Alto making $198,000/yr, is the equivalent of someone making $30,000 in that same part of Tennessee.

The tax code is already wildly unfair to people in high cost of living areas, who don't control the cost of living (which is caused by supply and demand/external factors people have no control of themselves, and it's often not economically feasible to move). Given that tax policy and this stimulus have goals related to economic status, they should have to make cost-of-living adjustments to limits.

It's unfair that a really rich person in TN will get funding while someone already struggling to stay housed in our area after the massive tax increases on the lowest-end of the homeownersip spectrum, who makes the equivalent of someone making $30,000 (or less, across much of the country) will get nothing. Many renters in that income range here also saw their taxes go up. Millions of people did.

Especially in these times of all the basics disappearing from store shelves and there being no sales to be had whatsoever, there really needs to finally be a reckoning over cost-of-living differences. Given the pandemic, people can't really move around right now if they lose their homes either.

Someone needs to ask the potus point blank whether he stands by having given a tax "cut" and whether he will make it possible for anyone middle class (remember to use cost of living multipliers/divisors) whose taxes went up for 2018-2020 to apply for a rebate of the difference between, say, the average of their taxes for the three years prior to the change and what they had to pay after. But there should also be some kind of divisor applied to the incomes of people in high cost areas so that the provisions of the tax code aimed to help people in their exact economic circumstances are actually helped by those provisions.

I say any stimulus intended to help people with this should help everyone across the country equally, and not once again disproportionately benefit people , including rich people, in lower-cost-of-living states. (Notice, the state taxes are NOT what makes that difference.)

Ask your members of congress to adjust for cost of living, in the stimulus AND the tax code, or Californians are once again going to get the short end of the stick as we head into the most challenging of economic times.

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