The COVID-19 crisis presented unprecedented challenges for the Latino immigrant community of San Francisco’s Mission District. MEDA was cognizant that a quick pivot and innovative solutions were urgently needed, plus that we could leverage our 47 years of trust built in the community and with our supporters.
One immediate need was to find a way to quickly deploy financial assistance for our neighbors, who were experiencing untold hardship. Their fear was palpable. Their well-being was threatened. Their needs were great.
These workers are the backbone of the economy — our housecleaners, child care providers, day laborers and back-of-house restaurant workers. Due to COVID-19, these Latino immigrant community members were first to have their hours cut or lose their jobs, experience food insecurity, not be able to pay their rent and need a computer for their kids’ distance learning. There are no Zoom meetings that will allow them to perform their work. No 401(k) savings on which to draw. No stimulus checks.
Such was the advent of the Mission Families Relief Fund, which initially had its coffers generously filled by a $100,000 donation from Room to Breathe Project.
The Mission Families Relief Fund first needed to create protocols for the selection of recipients and disbursement of funds, ensuring shelter-in-place orders and social-distancing guidelines were followed. For MEDA staff and clients, this meant embracing technology in the form of new applications and software that would facilitate a user-friendly application process.
To select the 100 recipients who received $1,000 per family, the Mission Families Relief Fund Advisory Committee was formed. This committee, comprising a cross-departmental cohort of MEDA staff, took on responsibilities related to the overall facilitation of the fund. The Committee used the “needy” or “distressed” test was applied to each applicant as a means to make an objective assessment of whether the family was truly in need of the grant funding to ameliorate their immediate and dire economic straits.
To be eligible to receive money from the Mission Families Relief Fund, applicants had to:
- Currently receive services from MEDA;
- Live and/or have children attending school in the Mission Promise Neighborhood;
- Have dependent children under 18;
- Have lost all or significant part of their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Have an annual family income lower than $61,600, which is 50% of the 2019 Area Median Income for a household of four in San Francisco; and
- Be ineligible for, or not able to receive, government or other private financial assistance to address basic living needs during this emergency.
The great news is that within two weeks, the 100 Mission families selected each had their $1,000 in hand. These funds helped buy groceries. Pay their rent. Purchase a computer so distance learning was possible.
(The letter below came from one of the families.)
One community member’s story exemplifies the impact this $100,000 has made for the Mission’s undocumented residents. Mom is a newcomer, having emigrated from Honduras two years ago in search of a better life. She has three children, the youngest born just two days before she received the $1,000 from the Mission Families Relief Fund. This family says they now have hope (esperanza), as the money will be used for food, transportation, the phone bill and an emergency fund for expenses that may soon arise during the COVID-19 crisis.
Here are actual quotes from Mission families in need who received $1,000:
“Thank you, MEDA, and to all the people who have made this great gift possible. For me it has been a blessing to receive this great help that has come to us at such difficult times we are going through because of COVID-19.”
“Hello, my name is Erick and I am 11 years old. My little brother, my mom and I are very happy and grateful for the gift we have received. Thank you for giving us $1,000. I love hamburgers, and we will go to buy little things to prepare them. We will also buy fruits, vegetables, cereal, eggs, beans and other things for my little brother, too. I am happy.
The first iteration was an incredible success, but we know that there are scores more families in our community who are awaiting relief. That’s why MEDA is fundraising to disburse a second round of funds.
Can you help our neighbors in need? We are currently looking to raise $55,000 more for the Mission Families Relief Fund in our “$55K on 5/5” #GivingTuesdayNow campaign that begins on May 5th. By leveraging the spirit of global unity and giving on this important day, we hope you’re able to turn to your neighbors in need at this time.
Remember: $25, $50, $100, $250, $500 … any amount helps. Please donate on Mighty Cause here.
(Keep in mind that to further your impact during this COVID-19 crisis, many Bay Area companies have increased the limits of their matching-gifts programs so your donation can be doubled or tripled — at no cost to you. )
General questions on donations? firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Mission Families Relief Fund
The purpose of the Mission Families Relief Fund is to serve the immediate unmet needs of Mission District families who have lost all or a significant part of their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are not eligible for, or do not receive, government or other private financial assistance to address basic living needs during the emergency or disaster. Immediate unmet needs may include funding the cost of such items as food, shelter, utilities, medical supplies, medical bills, education costs, child care costs, loss of income coverage, funeral costs and/or additional items or damages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.