City of Seattle launches $16 million financial aid program to help low-income residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

City of Seattle launches $16 million financial aid program to help low-income residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

The Seattle Relief Fund opening today will provide one-time direct cash assistance to Seattle families, young people, and artists/creatives

The City of Seattle launched the Seattle Relief Fund today to help low-income residents who have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible applicants must be 18 years old or older, have incomes under 50 percent of Seattle’s area median income (less than $40,500 for a one-person household), and have at least one of these situations apply to the individual or to a household member:

  • Live within the boundaries of the city of Seattle, or
  • Be enrolled in the Seattle Promise program, or
  • Be enrolled in Seattle Public Schools, or
  • Be an artist/cultural worker who has owned or rented an art studio or rehearsal space within the boundaries of the City of Seattle at any time since March 2020.

The award amounts are between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on household size. Applicants are able to access the online application in one of eight languages. If people need further assistance completing the application, they can call to receive in-language help from a community-based organization (see below). The fund is open to all eligible Seattle residents regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

“As the first U.S. city to be significantly impacted by COVID-19, we were also the first city to quickly respond to our residents’ needs while the federal administration at the time did nothing,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “Now we have a highly competent and more humane administration doing everything they can to save lives that includes routing dollars to local municipalities so we can continue to help vulnerable residents, especially BIPOC families who continue to be disproportionately impacted by this ongoing pandemic. I’m proud to have worked with the City Council to pass the Seattle Rescue Plan and continue programs like the Seattle Relief Fund and our Small Business Stabilization Fund.”

The Seattle Relief Fund dollars are part of a $25 million appropriation in CB 120094 also known as the Seattle Rescue Plan, passed by Mayor Durkan and the Seattle City Council in June 2021. The fund prioritizes Seattle residents who have disproportionately experienced the economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. This includes households that were unable to access state unemployment, had no health insurance, didn’t receive federal stimulus payments, or experienced housing instability or mental health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) reserved approximately $8 million of the $25 million appropriation for direct cash assistance specifically to low-income immigrants who both received financial aid from last year’s Seattle COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund for Immigrants (SDRF) and continue to still be eligible. In this separate recertification process, OIRA partnered with Scholar Fund (SF), previously known as “Scholarship Junkies,” which began sending out text and email notifications to past awardees on August 30, 2021. Of the original 3,705 who submitted SDRF applications in 2020, 89 percent were eligible for continued aid, which resulted in a total of $5,807,000 in payments. Funds left over from the recertification process totaling $2.153 million were added into the Seattle Relief Fund, which totals roughly $16 million. Individuals and households who received payments as part of the SDRF recertification process are not eligible to apply for the Seattle Relief Fund.

OIRA and Human Services Department (HSD) are continuing to partner with Scholar Fund (SF) for the Seattle Relief Fund application and fund disbursement processes.

“I was just a child in 1975, when my family fled to the United States from Vietnam with just a plastic bag of family photos,” said OIRA Director Cuc Vu. “But thanks to the kindness of Washington residents and elected leaders who took to heart the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty – ‘from her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome’ – we received assistance and were able to adjust to our new home and eventually give back to our community. We hope the Seattle Relief Fund will be a helpful boost for those Seattle residents who have been impacted by this ongoing pandemic and who need assistance to bounce back. I thank the Mayor and the Council for ensuring these funds help families most in need. And we are proud to once again partner with essential community organizations who have been at the front lines of helping vulnerable individuals during the past year and a half of the pandemic.”

OIRA and HSD are also contracting with local nonprofit community-based organizations to assist with outreach and to help applicants who need assistance in applying over-the-phone or in-person, especially applicants who are English-language learners or who have other accessibility issues.

“The pandemic continues for so many people,” said César García, co-director of the nonprofit Lake City Collective, one of the SRF community partner organizations. “Especially for those who have lost income because someone in their household became very ill or died, or for parents who couldn’t afford childcare, or workers whose employer shutdown,” he added. “The Seattle Relief Fund recognizes that our neighbors who contribute to Seattle’s economy need a lifeline to keep them afloat in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Lake City Collective is thankful to Mayor Durkan, the Council, and the City of Seattle through departments like OIRA for sending a clear message to our communities, that through actions like this fund and the City’s continuing citywide vaccination efforts, they care about our most vulnerable residents.”

The total amount of these outreach contracts is $690,000 and includes in-language and in some cases, in-person assistance to those with other kinds of access issues. More information about this can be found here.

“We are proud to partner with community-based organizations across the city to offer assistance to immigrants, refugees, and limited English-proficient individuals facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tanya Kim, HSD Acting Director. “We recognize that many Seattle residents are suffering economic instability due to COVID-19, and we are working hard to ensure that support services are available to all those in need. We also recognize the importance of offering assistance that is culturally relative and in a household’s preferred language,” said Tanya Kim, HSD Acting Director.

The Seattle Relief Fund will start accepting applications today and will close on Monday, November 15 at 11:59 p.m.

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