United Way of San Diego County Creates Emergency San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

San diego skyline, outline of California and text that reads San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative


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Assets courtesy United Way of San Diego County

Local initiative to provide safety net, such as energy bills and rent/mortgage assistance, to low-wage individuals and families impacted by lay-offs and reduced working hours

SAN DIEGO (March 20, 2020) — United Way of San Diego County has created an emergency Worker Assistance Initiative for low-wage workers needing immediate support for utilities and rent/mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 crisis. It is estimated nearly 200,000 employees are represented in the hospitality and tourism sector in San Diego County alone, a third of whom are considered to be low-wage workers. In these challenging times, United Way of San Diego County is dedicated to helping low-income workers who need it the most.

The Worker Assistance Initiative is part of the greater San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund launched on March 16 as a partnership among the County of San Diego (led by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher), The San Diego Foundation, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, and United Way of San Diego County. This response fund was established to complement the work of public health officials and to ensure funding for basic needs of food, utility service, and rent/mortgage payments to prevent the need to enter the social services system of care and to prevent increased homelessness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The United Way is ready to receive applications from San Diegans affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “They are a great partner, a dynamic community resource, and through their programming are on the frontlines to help people who struggle with food security, rental and utility assistance and income replacement or gap funding.”

How United Way of San Diego County Worker Assistance Initiative Works

While this initiative has been developed in response to the COVID-19 situation, United Way of San Diego County is committed to building a long-term entity to be deployed for future situations which specifically call for low-wage workers urgently needing assistance.

“As we have for 100 years, United Way of San Diego County will address challenges being faced by our community head-on,” says Nancy Sasaki, CEO of United Way of San Diego County. “In response to COVID-19, our organization has quickly organized and stands ready to assist our most vulnerable working individuals and families living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet. It is imperative we act now to provide immediate aid to our neighbors during this trying time and call upon our community to unite and support San Diegans being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

United Way of San Diego County will leverage $1 million made available by SDG&E in their existing Neighbor-to-Neighbor program to help pay energy bills for workers in need. The organization also has $250,000 in seed capital from SDG&E and The San Diego Foundation (with plans to initially raise another $750,000+) to help low-wage workers pay their rent/mortgage and utility bills. 

“Many people are already hurting out there, facing job loss, food insecurity, evictions and other hardships through no fault of their own,” says Caroline Winn, chief operating officer of San Diego Gas & Electric. “Coming together is imperative during this time, and we will help as many of San Diego’s most vulnerable community members as we can through the challenging months to come.”

How to Support Low-Wage Workers in Need

Join United Way of San Diego County in providing relief to low-wage workers and their families whose incomes have been negatively impacted during this time of uncertainty by helping in the following ways:

How to Apply for Assistance

United Way of San Diego County is currently accepting applications for qualified low-wage workers who have experienced job loss or a wage reduction to access funding due to COVID-19.

Learn more and apply at: https://uwsd.org/covid19/

*Please Note: United Way of San Diego County will not be deploying cash to individuals. The organization will send checks directly to the qualified applicants’ landlords/mortgage companies, SDG&E, and other utility companies.

Continuing the Work of Local Nonprofits

United Way of San Diego County is proud to partner with The San Diego Foundation to ensure nonprofits supporting community members affected by the COVID-19 crisis have access to funds to propel their critical work. In addition to the initial $250,000 pledge, the Foundation is raising additional capital to be deployed to nonprofit organizations that are working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by this public health crisis and its economic consequences. Learn more at: SDFoundation.org/COVID19.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important we come together as one community to help each other,” shared Mark Stuart, President & CEO of The San Diego Foundation. “The outpouring of support we are receiving from partners and donors, large and small, is a positive sign of hope. Every donation is being used to support local organizations, including United Way of San Diego County, that are providing vital services and resources to San Diegans most impacted by the coronavirus.”


For 100 years, United Way of San Diego County has aligned with partners to address inequities in the region and help underserved communities. United Way’s specialty lies in identifying sustainable, long-term goals and achieving them through leveraging data and partners’ expertise to better understand root causes and putting impactful solutions into action.

United Way’s work, in partnership with others, uses shared goals, innovation and proven practices to transform the lives of children, young adults and families in the San Diego region. United Way focuses on educational milestones, such as kindergarten readiness, third-grade literacy, high school preparation, and college and career pathways. Learn more and get involved by visiting www.uwsd.org, Facebook, Twitter, or by calling (858) 492-2000.