In just two days, Santa Clara County's $11M financial assistance fund has run out | News | Palo Alto Online |

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In just two days, Santa Clara County's $11M financial assistance fund has run out

Organizers taking down names of needy residents in case more money becomes available

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An $11 million financial assistance program rolled out this week to help low-income residents who have lost work as a result of the new coronavirus has already run out, surprising nonprofit workers who had just set up the program.

In a notice sent out Thursday afternoon, the nonprofit Sacred Heart Community Service announced that it had already reached the "maximum capacity" of families they could serve with the $11 million fund, and that it would no longer be accepting applications for financial assistance. Needy residents are still encouraged to add their name to an interest list in case more funding becomes available.

The pool of funding came from a combination of donations from large, private companies, the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County, with an eye towards helping those who have lost their jobs or had work hours reduced as a result of the coronavirus shutdown. The county's order closing all nonessential businesses and schools, followed a few days later by a similar statewide order, caused a sudden spike in unemployment in California.

The fund was available to families making less than 80% of the area median income, or roughly $104,000 for a family of four, and who are county residents. Households eligible for the program could receive up to $4,000 each month depending on their circumstances.

The assumption was that the need was going to be high, but it was unexpected to see all the funding accounted for so quickly, said David Low, communication and policy director for the nonprofit Destination: Home, which spearheaded the fundraising effort. He said the next step is to seek more money for the emergency aid fund, but he could not provide details on those fundraising activities.

Tom Myers, the executive director of Community Services Agency (CSA) in Mountain View, said he was surprised to hear all of the money had already been accounted for so quickly. His agency's case managers had been working for the last week to link needy residents to the county's emergency funds, and he said he had no idea the money was already gone as of Thursday.

It was not immediately clear whether clients who came to CSA seeking funds from the county's $11 million emergency assistance program were among the recipients in the initial barrage of applications to Sacred Heart Community Service, which was inundated with 1,600 phone calls in just one day and so many online applications and inquiries that it crashed the nonprofit's site.

Myers said residents who are out of work and need help as a result of the coronavirus should still call or email CSA and inquire about financial aid, and that case managers will find other sources of funding to help needy residents if at all possible. The city of Mountain View launched its own $500,000 relief program aimed at helping renters who lost income and are struggling to pay for rental hosting costs as a result of the virus, which was still available as of Thursday, March 26.

Just because the county's fund has dried up doesn't mean people shouldn't seek help from CSA, Myers said.

"It's important that people who are in trouble reach out," he said. "Whatever is happening in another part of the county — be sure to reach out to CSA if you need assistance."

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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Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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