COVID-19 Response: The Worker Assistance Fund (WAF)

San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund

San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative

During our 100-year history, we have always been here for those who need additional support, and the current health crisis of COVID-19 is no different. In March of 2020, United Way of San Diego County launched the San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative as part of the greater San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, to provide flexible resources to individuals impacted by layoffs and reduced working hours implemented by employers. The aim of the Initiative complements the work of public health officials to prevent the need to enter the social services system of care and prevent homelessness.

Within two weeks of launching the Initiative, UWSD had received more than 8,400 applications and requests for more than $12 million worth of assistance.

Who It’s For: Low-wage workers who need support for a limited but undetermined length of time

What The Money Goes Toward: Utilities and rent/mortgage payments

Our Aim: Complement the work of public health officials to prevent the need to enter the social services system of care and prevent homelessness

Grants

The San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative was established by United Way of San Diego County to provide flexible resources to qualified individuals and families who have been the most severely impacted by layoffs and reduced working hours implemented by employers due to COVID-19.

As the pandemic progressed and the needs of the community changed, UWSD had to redefine who was in most need. When the CARES Act passed and with the guidance from a major funder, the nonprofit realized San Diegans who did not receive financial assistance would need the most support.

To help deliver relief quickly to individuals and families experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19, UWSD has partnered with organizations around the region who not only have a history of being trusted community leaders, but also serve many individuals who do not file IRS 1040s and are not covered by CARES Act funding. These organizations also have the ability to distribute funds quickly to the members of the community who need it most.

“We’ve been staying informed on the needs of the community and as those needs progressed, we have had to change too,” says president and CEO, Nancy L. Sasaki. “During our 100-year history, we have always been here for those who need additional support, and the current economic crisis is no exception. Through our partnership with these organizations, United Way of San Diego County will continue to deploy dollars to those who need it most, and at a faster rate.”

UWSD has distributed $667,830 from its San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative to seven local community organizations across the region who are supporting low-wage workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: MAAC, North County Lifeline, Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), San Diego Community College District, San Diego LGBT Community Center, South Bay Community Services, and United Domestic Workers.

The following seven organizations were selected for this grant due to their extensive efforts during the pandemic and geographic reach:

MAAC (Spring Valley): An organization that maximizes self-sufficiency with families and individuals through high-quality programs and advocacy in our underserved communities. MAAC was founded upon a vision to provide a place where local families in need could find the means to self-sufficiency. This nonprofit is based in East County, but has a County-wide footprint and focuses on affordable housing, child development, and economic development.

North County Lifeline: This nonprofit’s mission is to build self-reliance among youth, adults, and families through high-quality, community-based services. Its work focuses on housing and self-sufficiency, youth development, domestic violence and human trafficking prevention.

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans: PANA’s mission is to promote the fair treatment and equitable inclusion of refugee communities using organizing to achieve collective impact and policy change. The majority of San Diego’s refugee workers are in the restaurant, hotel, and transportation industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Even with the City of San Diego taking action to halt evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs, people already struggling to make ends meet are now managing reduced work hours or furloughs, school closures, childcare challenges, and food scarcity. Funds from the San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative will support PANA’s emergency COVID-19 fund.

San Diego Community College District: This nonprofit consists of thousands of students in need who rely on employment while going to school. Many of them are not eligible for CARES Act support.

San Diego LGBT Community Center: The Center provides targeted programs and services to the full diversity of the San Diego LGBT community, including men, women, youth, seniors, transgender and non-binary individuals, families, LGBT Latino community members and their families. Last year, The Center provided more than 82,000 direct service visits to San Diego community members, and through its events, activities and advocacy, touched the lives of thousands more.

South Bay Community Services: A community-based nonprofit organization providing a comprehensive range of services for children, youth, and families in San Diego county.

United Domestic Workers: United Domestic Workers is a union for home care workers, by home care workers. The nonprofit looks after families and cares for community members who need its assistance. Many of them left paid, full-time jobs to do this work, and frequently work more hours than for which they are paid.

Partners

partner logos

Through this partnership, we support:

  • Individuals in crisis, through the San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative
  • Nonprofit organizations in our region working with communities disproportionately impacted by the crisis through The San Diego Foundation –> to support local nonprofits, visit TSDF’s website

United Way of San Diego County is grateful for the support of The San Diego Foundation and SDG&E, who serve as lead investors of this initiative.

Need Help?

To access 6,000+ services, resources, and programs offered in San Diego, please call 2-1-1 San Diego or visit their website. 2-1-1 San Diego provides information for basic needs like food, housing, utilities, and transportation. The organization can also help you explore and sign up for Covered California, CalFresh, Medi-Cal, and other services.