Additional 3,300 Seattle immigrant and refugees received cash assistance
Last week, the City of Seattle in partnership with several nonprofit organizations announced that it has provided 5,257 individuals and 4,135 households with direct cash assistance through its Seattle Relief Fund. This fund was created to support vulnerable income-eligible Seattle residents who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the Omicron variant now here in King County, we know that COVID-19 is far from done with us, which is why we continue to launch programs to aid residents, households, and small businesses that continue to feel the impacts from this pandemic,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “Nearly 50 community organizations focused on equitable outreach both in-person and over-the-phone to help thousands apply for this crucial funding, and now, more than ever this cash assistance will help pay for groceries, bills, and housing.”
Of the applicants, 5,585 adults received $1,000 awards, 827 two-adult households received a payment of $2,000, and 2,980 households with children or adult dependents received a payment of $3,000. The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) and Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) both managed the Seattle Relief Fund, with the planning process starting in July of this year and the official application having launched on Monday, October 25. In the three weeks that the application was open, the program received 63,672 submissions.
Seattle-based tech nonprofit organization Scholar Fund (SF) managed the application process. According to SF’s analysis of the applications, a majority of households who received funding (61.1%) experienced a death, hospitalization, or long-term health impact or crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A vast majority of awardees (92.4%) experienced some form of recent housing instability, including the inability to pay rent/mortgage and/or having to move out of their home. Also 82.7% of all applicants reported a lost a job or loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
As many of our neighbors continue to be impacted by the pandemic, it is a priority of City Council to get relief directly into the hands of COVID-19-impacted households and individuals. This week, thousands of individuals directly experienced the Seattle Rescue Plan policy and values in action and received much needed direct cash relief as year three of life with COVID-19 fast approaches. It was an honor to secure this funding for Seattle residents and artists, and I want to thank the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, the Human Services Department, and our community partners for their quick work to both stand up a process and efficiently award funds.Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide)
The SRF’s design and implementation by both City departments was rooted in collaborative innovation with the community. SRF integrated feedback and ideas from dozens of community-based organizations throughout all phases of the project, including determining eligibility, formulating the application, and launching the outreach and engagement campaign.
“We were honored to help with the disbursement of money through the Seattle Relief Fund. Through the process, we witnessed first-hand the number of people financial assistance could positively impact,” said Vivian Hua, Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum, a Seattle Relief Fund community organization partner. “The SRF community outreach efforts were innovative, smooth, and offered a replicable model for centering communities that are often difficult to reach.”
“The overwhelming response that we received from our Seattle Relief Fund outreach activities indicates the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on those living in the Seattle area,” said Violet Lavatai, representing APICAT another SRF community partner. “APICAT for Health appreciates having the opportunity to partner with the City of Seattle, Mayor Durkan, HSD, OIRA, Scholar Fund, and the other community organizations involved in this effort to support individuals and families during this holiday season. Our collective effort serves as a reminder of what can be accomplished when we work together.”
The source of the Seattle Relief Fund dollars was from a $25 million appropriation dubbed the Seattle Rescue Plan, passed by Mayor Durkan and the Seattle City Council in June 2021. The intention of SRF was to prioritize Seattle residents who have disproportionately experienced the economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, including self-employed artists/cultural workers, people unable to access state unemployment/federal stimulus funds, and those who had no health insurance or are experiencing housing instability or mental health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The work done on the Seattle Relief Fund activates a critical safety net for those most impacted by the pandemic. HSD connects people to resources and solutions during times of need, and SRF provides a significant infusion of resources that support a more equitable recovery for Seattle’s most vulnerable and low-income. This collaborative effort is also a great example of HSD’s focus on building partnerships between public agencies and the community that lead to innovative solutions that support people’s right to thrive.Tanya Kim, HSD’s Acting Director
The Seattle Relief Fund application was available online in six additional languages (Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese), with 30.7% of all forms submitted in those languages. Additionally, of all applications awarded, 78.4% of recipients identified as BIPOC.
“I continued to be so inspired by the commitment and innovation across the city and our communities. Together, we stepped up to launch this important program, reaching applicants in all but two Seattle ZIP codes. It’s such a great feeling to know that families will have a brighter holiday,” said Cuc Vu, Director of OIRA. “Seattle once again shows its leadership as a welcoming city that continues to center the needs of our most vulnerable communities. Big thanks also to Scholar Fund who quickly processed and reviewed the over 63,000 submitted applications. This is government and community collaboration at its best!”
Prior to the Seattle Relief Fund, OIRA disbursed $5,807,000 in direct cash assistance specifically to low-income immigrants ineligible for federal stimulus payments. These immigrants received financial aid from last year’s Seattle COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund for Immigrants (SDRF) and were able to apply through a separate recertification process that began August 2021. OIRA again partnered with Scholar Fund, which sent out text and email notifications and even made phone calls to last year’s awardees. Of the original 3,705 who submitted SDRF applications in 2020, 89% were eligible for continued aid. Individuals and households who received payments as part of the 2021 SDRF recertification process were not eligible to apply for the Seattle Relief Fund.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the City of Seattle has worked quickly to launch COVID-19 testing sites, vaccination clinics, and relief programs including rent relief, expanding shelter for people experiencing homelessness, grocery vouchers for working families, and financial assistance to small businesses. Residents and businesses can find a list of existing COVID-19 relief resources and policies at this website: seattle.gov/covid-19.