In a massive effort to replenish a COVID-19 financial assistance fund, a slew of South Bay elected, nonprofit and business leaders will host a telethon Saturday to raise funds to help low-income residents pay rent and other basic necessities.
The telethon will be hosted by NBC Bay Area and Telemundo 48.
The widespread call for help comes after the fund — which was launched on March 23 with about $11 million — ran out of money in just three days after receiving 4,400 applications. Now — with a waitlist rising to about 6,800 — leaders are hoping the community steps up to help those facing economic hardship in the wake of the unprecedented public health crisis.
Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home, one of the primary philanthropic partners behind the program, tweeted Friday that almost 70 percent of the families seeking help are people of color and half are considered extremely low-income.
“Equity is ensuring families of color most affected by #COVID have the money they need to eat & pay bills,” she tweeted.
Already, one major donor has stepped up. Veteran philanthropist and developer John A. Sobrato kicked in $100,000 to the fund.
THIS JUST IN: John A. Sobrato from @Sobrato_org has just pledged $100K in support of tomorrow’s telethon! Thank you John! Who’s next? Tune in tomorrow and join us! 💪🏼#SiliconValleyStrong cc @nbcbayarea #InThisTogether
— Destination: Home (@DSTNHome) April 3, 2020
“We are seeing the true strength of character from Silicon Valley in the face of this pandemic,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. “It’s thanks to the generosity of our neighbors and community that we are able to continue striving to financially protect our residents.”
Funds come from Silicon Valley Strong, a partnership between government, nonprofit and private groups to centralize resources for residents. Administered by Sacred Heart Community Services, the aid helps county residents through the Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System with immediate financial assistance of up to $4,000 per month of lost income.
About half of applicants who need help earn $43,900 or less in a four-person household, Loving said.
Housing homeless residents facing illness
Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a first-of-its-kind million dollar partnership with the federal government to secure nearly 7,000 hotel rooms for high-risk and COVID-19 positive homeless individuals in California.
“If left unaddressed, we allow our most vulnerable residents in the state of California to be exposed to this virus,” Newsom said.
Dubbed Project Roomkey, the initiative aims to secure 15,000 hotel rooms for the homeless and includes purchase agreements for long term, permanent housing. The hotel residents will get these options either through a right of first offer or a right of first refusal.
In total, 869 residents have been housed through the program.
FEMA will pay for 75 percent of the cost while the state will cover the remaining 25 percent. The state has secured a a whopping $800 million in grant money for the project as well as $150 million in emergency aid funds.
Newsom said including occupancy agreements with extensions and purchase options was an important step to keep people off the streets as California continues to face its ongoing homeless crisis.
“This was the crisis we needed to address before the COVID-19 crisis and we’re not walking away from meeting that crisis head on,” Newsom added. “We’re also beginning to process an orientation of focus and energy around long-term supports, so that we could get people off the streets in a permanent way.”
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Editor’s Note: Jennifer Loving serves on San José Spotlight’s Board of Directors.