They knew the need was intense, but no one suspected it was this bad.
Just three days after its launch, a more than $11 million coronavirus relief fund for Santa Clara County residents has run out of money, shocking organizers who expected it to last much longer, and forcing them to start turning away families in need. The fund, meant to help low-income households survive the coronavirus-fueled financial meltdown, stopped accepting applications Thursday. Now the nonprofits involved are putting out a desperate plea for more donations.
“Right now we have more applications than we can fund with $11 million. So we’re taking this opportunity to pause, convert to an interest list, get through the thousands of phone calls and emails and applications,” said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home, one of the agencies overseeing the fund.
After the fund launched Monday afternoon, organizers received 1,400 applications that first day, Loving said. So many flooded in — sometimes coming at a rate of two per minute — that they crashed the website. By Thursday, the applicant count was up to 4,400.
The average need of each applicant is a little under $3,000 — meaning there’s not enough money in the pot to serve all 4,400 requests, Loving said. More than half of the requests are from extremely low-income households, some of which lost not only their main source of income, but also second jobs and side-hustles when Bay Area officials and then the governor mandated the closure of all non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Money likely will come from the federal government to help those hit hardest by the crisis, but it’s unclear how much will flow to the Bay Area, and when. Eviction moratoriums passed in San Jose and Santa Clara County also will help people stay housed for now — but residents will have to pay back rent once the pandemic abates.
The Santa Clara County fund, fueled by contributions from the city of San Jose, the county, and nonprofits and companies including Cisco, Destination: Home, Adobe, Zoom, Facebook and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, was launched to help low-income households pay rent and other crucial bills. Households are eligible if they live in Santa Clara County and make less than 80% of the average median income — or $103,900 for a family of four — and can prove they’ve lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nonprofit staffers are processing the applications they’ve received, and hope to get the first batch of funds out the door and into residents’ hands by Tuesday or Wednesday, said Poncho Guevara, executive director of Sacred Heart Community Service.
Organizers are troubled that it took less than a week for the $11 million to dry up. It’s an ominous sign showing just how bad the region is hurting already, at the beginning of a crisis that could last weeks or months, Loving said.
“The need for financial support is frankly catastrophic,” she said, “and the amount of people that are in need in this valley in such a short amount of time is cause for tremendous concern.”
On Friday, Sacred Heart Community Service, the lead agency managing the fund, instructed Santa Clara County residents in need to add their names to an online waitlist to be contacted if additional funding becomes available.
Some good news also came Thursday, in the form of a new $150,000 donation from Housing Trust Silicon Valley. But much more is needed.
“We really need it now,” Guevara said. “It’s time for us to rally and make sure we don’t increase the problem of homelessness which was already a crisis before this shock.”