Because of the current pandemic and economic fallout, the needs of the most vulnerable people across King County are increasing, and that group is growing—some people need help today that have never needed help before. Our team at United Way of King County has been laser-focused on meeting this need and providing relief through a new fund we created called the United Way Community Relief Fund.
This fund has helped give people immediate access to food, rental assistance and the support they need at this time. With employee hours being reduced and largescale layoffs, people across King County are faced with difficult choices and are finding themselves concerned about how they are going to pay rent or put food on the table. We are working hard every day to meet the increasing needs caused by the pandemic.
We launched the Community Relief Fund in March, and in April we provided rental assistance to about 2,000 families with a $5 million initial investment. But almost 6,800 households applied for aid, so we put the program on pause due to a lack of funds. Our region had a housing crisis before COVID-19 struck, and the need for rental assistance will persist even as we recover from the economic downturn.
Our community also lacks access to food. Because of school closures, low-income families that depended on free or reduced school meals for their children now have to find a way to put more food on the table. The Community Relief Fund provided food vouchers to those families, putting the purchasing power directly into families’ hands. We are also delivering meals to hard-hit families in low-income housing communities.
While everyone is experiencing the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, for the most vulnerable in our communities, the impact is strongest. We are seeing immigrants, refugees, and communities of color experience disproportional impacts from the pandemic and its economic downturn.
The scale of the need has created extreme demand from our grantees at the same time the coronavirus outbreak has profoundly disrupted our usual fundraising activities.
We are hoping we can reopen these funds if enough additional financial resources are secured. This program’s initial success was in part due to the support of local organizations and neighbors with resources to spare, like the team at Comcast Washington. Their team contributed $50,000 to our Community Relief Fund and is utilizing their resources to help grow awareness of our fund, so we can secure more resources and help our county’s vulnerable citizens and families.
Comcast has also supported other key COVID-19 initiatives in our region, like the Seattle’s Small Business Relief Fund. The company also expanded its low-income internet service program, Internet Essentials, to help connect families to needed internet resources at this time.
But one or a handful of companies giving or extending its services to help is not enough. We need more support. The number of people we can help in King County is limited by the donations from the community and public partners. We cannot respond at the scale of the crisis without widespread donor support.
How You Can Help
If you have some resources to spare or are working for a company that is looking to get involved in giving, we would love to hear from you. No donation is too small, and anything you can provide will make a difference for those that really need it at this time. You can get information on how to get involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more general information or to make a direct donation to support the United Way of King County Community Relief Fund visit www.uwkc.org/donate/.